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The Mayor Of Garratt, The Leather Bottle and the Dead King]
Tooting in the 1950's]
Merton Abbey Mills]
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Tooting is the district of south-west London
that lies between Wimbledon and Streatham. The area
has been settled since Saxon times, and it is believed
that the name dates from this period and means
"the dwelling of the sons of Totas".
For much of its history Tooting was a rural district,
fairly cut off from London. Then in the 18th century,
as in surrounding areas, Tooting gradually became
a popular country residence for some of London's
Several large mansions were built in the area
and so the population of Tooting slowly expanded.
Tooting continued to develop over the next 100 years
or so, and by the early 19th century lots of elegant
villas had been built in the district.
It wasn't until the late 19th and early 20th centuries
that Tooting was transformed into the typical residential
suburb that it is today.
"THE HUGUENOTS" by Frank Staff
Some of the prosperity of both Tooting and Streatham was due to refugees from religious intolerance: French Huguenots.
The Huguenots, who lived mainly in Northern and Eastern France, were granted religious freedom by the Edict of Nantes in 1598. In 1685, Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes and the massacre of French Protestants followed. Many managed to escape across the Channel and some settled in Wandsworth, Streatham and Tooting.
Their contribution to the quality of life was enormous. They brought with them an organisational talent, knowledge of industrial processes, a determination to succeed in spite of being uprooted and perhaps most important, the ability to harness for their benefit the only power then available - the water power to run their mills. They engaged in numerous activities: the art of silk weaving, copper engraving, hat making and bleaching, dyeing and colouring, for which the mildly alkaline water from the Wandle and Graveney was ideal. The French Protestants were soon in business as major suppliers of scarlet robes and scarlet hats that would not run in the rain. And the purchasers? Obviously, all Roman Catholic Cardinals. Business is business after all.
Huguenots re-introduced and developed market gardening vegetables, fruit and flowers that they supplied to London and other cities.
They organised a perfumery business and by creating demand, transformed Tooting's meadows and fields into fields of flowers - many of them exotic varieties - orchards and nurseries. One such nursery was in Garratt Lane and along Fountain Road, but there were many others. "Mitcham Lavender" was, of course, also grown in Tooting and Streatham. Who would imagine today that not long ago there were eucalyptus trees in Tooting? Tooting's Graveney river was too small to run a mill, but the Wandle was utilised to the fullest extent. The nearest mill to Tooting was Copper Mill at Summerstown. Other mills were supplying power to run looms, to calico printing, rolling, stamping and hot working metal objects. A Brazil mill was used to grind the red wood from Brazil into powder. This was a starting material in a synthesis of indigo dyes. Another mill cut tobacco for smoking and powdered it for snuff In its heyday, there were 48 water-powered mills on the Wandle and the first water shortage necessitated the restriction on use of water for mills. Of course not all mills were in the Huguenot's hands, although they were among the leaders in the use and development of water power. Industrial growth also caused pollution of rivers and both the Wandle and the Graveney fish population suffered. The local variety of brown marble trout fell as a casualty of progress. In Streatham, Huguenot settlement of silk weavers started their business in Factory Square, off Streatham High Road near to Greyhound Lane.
Their business has now gone and many other Huguenots were absorbed into the life of England. Some of their descendants know of their ancestors' identity through their name. Other Huguenots however retained their religious identity. Their Church in Soho is active and keeps French Huguenot traditions alive. They also have a most interesting religious, historical, sociological and political library.
Wandsworth's coat of arms acknowledges the presence of the Huguenots here by incorporating small droplets on the background of the chequers of Surrey. These droplets denote the tears of the Huguenot refugees who, while still remembering the country of their origin, France, which they were forced to leave, have become an accepted and respected part of the population of Wandsworth.
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A Brief History of Merton
by John Precedo
Part 1 - Romans to the Norman Conquest
The areas that now make up the London borough of Merton were known to the Romans. To this day Colliers Wood High Street follows the line of Stane Street, the Roman road (built in 76 AD) that connected London with Chichester, the tribal capital of Essex. As well as passing through on this famous road, the Romans did stop in the area, as shown by the twelve Roman graves that were found on the Phipps Bridge estate in 1983. Later on, towards the end of the 400 years of Roman occupation of Britain (in the fifth century), the Romans encouraged mercenaries to settle in Mitcham. They hoped that mercenaries here, as well as other places on the eastern and southern approaches to London, would protect the city against raiders from the coast.
Perhaps during this time there were also settlements along the fertile banks of the river Wandle. There were certainly farms there by the time of the Norman Conquest. The area around Morden had also seen occupation. The land was once a mixture of marsh and forest, but parts of it had been cleared in the time of Alfred the Great.
There was a settlement in Mitcham during Anglo-Saxon times. The largest Anglo-Saxon graveyard yet discovered was found at Mitcham. On the north bank of the Wandle, this cemetary was unusually rich in weapons, and more broaches were found here than at any other Anglo-Saxon site. The name itself is an Anglo-Saxon one - Mitcham comes from the Anglo-Saxon for "big settlement", and it was known as this by the seventh century. Much of the Anglo-Saxon history is uncertain. A settlement was established near Mitcham (and the site of the the Anglo-Saxon graveyard) some time between 450 AD and 600 AD. The settlement would have been inhabited by 50 to 100 people. Cynewulf, the king of Wessex may have been killed in the area in 755 AD, and King Ethelred was mortally wounded fighting the Danes at the Battle of Merton in 871 AD.
Merton is first mentioned by name in 967 AD. The name comes from the Old English meaning "farm or estate by a pool", and evidence from an old charter points to the pool it referred to being in the River Wandle by the South West corner of Mitcham. It is likely that this area was part of King Harold's holdings immediately before the battle of Hastings in 1066. Not surprisingly, the new king took the defeated king's land: the Domesday book records the Manor of Merton as being held by King William I.
At this time, Morden had a population of only 50 - at least as recorded by the Domesday survey. And while today Wimbledon is the most famous part of Merton, it isn't even mentioned in the Domesday survey since it was assessed under the Manor of Mortlake.
According to the Domesday book, Merton had an estate of over 2,000 acres of land, its own church, 2 mills, 10 acres of meadows and wood for 80 hogs. This would have made it a prosperous village - it had 56 peasant farmers (called "villeins") and 13 labourers ("bordars"), and land for 21 ploughs.
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Part 2 - Merton Priory ( Someone built the Colliers Wood SavaCentre on top. Parts of the Priory are still visible)
Much of Merton grew around Merton Priory. The Priory is responsible for the area's name, the "Abbey" in "Merton Abbey Mills". This is an error, since the Augustinian house was always just a priory and was never an abbey.
In 1114, King Henry I gave Merton to the godson of Queen Matilda, Gilbert, Sherriff of Surrey. In the same year, Gilbert (sometimes known as Gilbert the Knight or Gilbert the Norman) founded the Augustinian Priory of St Mary in Merton. At this time a mill worth sixty shillings a year stood on the site later occupied by the priory, so it would have been removed by 1117 when the priory was ready for occupation. The first church would have been wooden, since the first stone church on the site wasn't begun until 1117.
Merton Priory had an unusually large chapter house, large enough to hold important meetings. Its use in such a religious establishment would have been as an administration centre for the monastery: a chapter of the rules of St Augustine would be read every day, confessions would heard, and business transactions conducted. As well as its day to day use, it was also used by its royal patrons for a variety of purposes. These included a peace conference, a working council on legal codes and privy council meetings. The priory as a whole covered an area of 60 acres, extending lengthways for 300 metres and crossways for 150 metres.
In 1121, a charter was granted by Henry I confirming the gift of the Manor of Merton to the priory.
Thomas á Becket was educated at Merton priory between 1130 and 1141. He went on to become Archbishop of Canterbury, and was murdered after a quarrel with King Henry I in 1170.
Adrian IV, the only English Pope was educated here in the 12th Century.
In 1135, when Henry I died, his body lay in state at Merton Priory.
In 1217, the Chapter House saw a peace conference between Henry III and Louis, Dauphin of France to settle the conflict between France and England. It was attended by a Papal legate, both French and English nobility, and Pembroke, the Earl Marshal, who made the Dauphin agree to peace.
In 1222, Merton Priory's tower collapsed during a severe storm. This lead to the rebuilding of the church, and monks took the opportunity to enlarge it.
1236 was a busy year for the priory. It saw Eleanor of Provence being crowned Henry III's queen here. Also, a meeting was held at the priory to settle disputes between Henry III and the barons of England. This meeting lead to the Statute of Merton being passed. Signed only twenty years after the Magna Carta, the Statute of Merton was the first item in the Statutes of the Realm and the basis of common law in England for centuries, only finally being repealed in 1948. In effect, it was an assertion of the barons' rights against those of the King. And Parliament was also assembled at Merton in this year.
In 1240, the Prior of Merton joined in with the villagers of Mitcham go to the Kings Assize Court. They brought an action for trespass against the Huscarls of Beddington who were attempting to prevent their use of Mitcham Common.
Henry III was the most frequent royal visitor and had his own quarters at the priory by 1258.
Walter de Merton lived in the area in the 13th century and was educated at Merton Priory. He became Chief Justice of England, and founded Oxford University's Merton College in 1264.
Merton Priory was also a place to seek refuge when fortune ceased to smile on you. Hubert de Burgh the former Justiciar of England, (a post equivalent to "chief administrator") sought sanctuary here in 1232 after his downfall; as did William de Wykeham, the Chancellor of England and Bishop of Winchester, in 1376.
Edward II was a regular visitor, organising sports days in the area - the royal sports held during 1346 to 1349.
In 1407, Henry IV held his privy council at Merton. Thirty years later in 1437, Henry VI was crowned here and went on to spend most of his time at the priory.
By 1437, the priory had become rich and corrupt. The Archbishop rebuked them for wearing habits of soft black fur rather than the required coarse black fustian.
By 1538, Merton Priory had existed by 400 years, and had become very important nationally as well as locally. Even as early as 1242, the priory held 202 estates in 16 different counties. As well as the royal patronage, it had sent Merton Canons to reform Dover. The priory had 6 chapels surmounted by a square tower, 60 acres of priory precincts, a guest house (which is believed to have stood where South Wimbledon tube station now is), and a Great Gate. All this was to change when Henry VIII ordered the Dissolution of the Monasteries. On the 29th April 1538, the Priory was surrendered to the king's commissioners. The Court of Augmentations had been specially created in 1536 for such business, and the commissioners of the court were instructed to: "pull down to the ground all the walls of the churches, stepulls, cloysters, fraterys, dorters, chapterhowsys".
Within the week, the Priory was being demolished, and Henry had the stones transported to Cheam to build Nonsuch Palace. The great priory church was rapidly demolished, but many domestic buildings and guest quarters still stood and were passed on to non-church owners. Perhaps this explains the term "Merton Abbey" which arises in a description of premises to be let in 1680 with "several large rooms and a very fine chapel".
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Does any one have or know if there are any photographs of an old area of Tooting called Salvador. It use to be where the Granada was built and was knocked down in the 1930's. Nobody seem to have a photograph showing the old cottages. Any help?
Great to see Tooting Market on the Home Page! Worked there for Ted the
butcher early 50s. Lived Crowborough Road 1946-54, had a Sunday paper round
at Coggers (Amen Corner), a daily paper round at Simpsons (Thrale Road),
worked in summer holidays as "the nipper" on a Taylor's horse-and-van bakery
round (stables at Amen Corner), school at the Bec (London County Council
school Beechcroft Road--later renamed for Ernest Bevin) boys only (500),
teachers wore gowns. (Anyone remember Scragger, the PT teacher?? Came from up
north.Tough as on old conker! "Run boy, run, run you around the field four
times.") Rugby, football, cricket on the playing grounds (with running
track), tennis courts. It was so long ago the school song was in Latin. First
line: "Illus ut orantibus, olim adfuisti, taeda quam incenderat," something
something for 90 or so erses. Never did find out what it meant. Left Tooting
1954, army (National Service) for 2 years Egypt & Cyprus, emigrated to Canada
57, became a journalist, moved to New York City 1960. Now in Florida, still
writing, just started new job in marine engineering after many years at sea,
delivering yachts around the world. Still think of the Tooting years as the
happiest. Dancing at Nina Mason's, the Mayfair for the Sunday flick, the
Granada, Astoria, Classic and Vogue depending on what was showing. The Pie
and Mash shop over the road from Tooting Market. Fun and dangerous games on
the bombsites...Would love to hear from any old Bec boys including the Dear
brothers Pete and Dave, Johnny Baker, Johnny Brann, Mike Ferriroli, Bobby
Homer, John Tovey, Johnny Andow, Ian Champion, John Evans, (?) Falke, (?)
Fowke, Raymond Milstead, Mike Parry, John Redington, (?) Stauber, Pete
Williams etc etc. The last words of the school song were "Floreat, Florebit."
I think it means Flourish, and that's what I will always wish for Tooting and
all who live there. Reg Potterton. E-mail address:
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