The History of Wandsworth Common


of Wandsworth Common

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Hello, Common People

Until now, I've been sending out emails rather promiscuously whenever the latest Chronicles appeared online.

It's a nice long mailing list but I think I'd better prune it back a bit.

So if you've had enough of the Chronicles to last a lifetime, do nothing — I'll deftly excise you from the list.

You won't feel a thing.

But if you would still like to receive occasional notifications, let me know. (It would be good to hear from you anyway.) And of course encourage others to add their names.

All best



"The Lost Houses and Gardens of Wandsworth Common"

As you may know, Stephen Midlane and I are convening a group to research the histories of houses round the Common that were demolished (mainly in the late nineteenth-century). People are invited to pick a house, or a group of houses, and look at their location, layout, inhabitants, and so on. We also very much want to find images, census entries, and newspaper reports in which they feature.

Photograph by Geoffrey Bevington of croquet on the lawn of his house on West Side.

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The site of Ivy House today.

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To suggest some of the possibilites, I've tinted many of the "lost houses" to be seen on an Ordnance Survey map of 1868.

"Lost houses and gardens" around the Common in 1868. Named houses are highlighted in yellow and un-named houses (and some other notable buildings) in pink.

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In most cases, little is visible today, but sometimes there are hints the mansions and villas that once flourished nearby — for example, road-names (Collamore Avenue, Burntwood Grange Road, Ravenslea Road). Sometimes the edges of the former gardens and estates can be seen in the layout of streets (see the notes on Spencer Lodge below); sometimes brick walls remain from the old much-larger gardens (the Burntwood cluster of houses), or stone from grand buildings intended to last centuries has been built into the walls of later houses (as on Heathfield Road). Heathfield Bowls Club is on the site of Collamore's front garden. And so on.

The "Burntwood Houses" (Burntwood Grange, Burntwood Lodge, and Collamore) at the top of Burntwood Lane, near the Scope. The "Cricket Ground" is now called "Trinity Fields".

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In a few cases, I imagine there are trees in people's gardens today that once graced a very much grander space. For example, I'm pretty sure there are great oaks in the back gardens of Lyford Road that may be hundreds of years old — who knows, they may have grown in the protection of thorny hedgerows that established the seventeenth-century boundary of the Common itself. It would be wonderful to locate and date these and other relics.

If you're interested, contact me and/or Stephen.

What appears from Frewin Road to be a very old oak tree in the garden of a Lyford Road house. I'd love to measure its girth so we can estimate its age!

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Chronicles for February 2023

More semi-random stories illustrating Wandsworth Common's unique past. As usual, there's no particular theme but you will notice several accounts involve lots of digging — the great underpass at the Thames end of Trinity Road in 1970, the destruction of our hallowed turf by "Treasure Hunters" in 1904, the sale of a bumper crop of mangel-wurzels in 1838, and the exhumation of an anatomised corpse in 1844.

Incidentally, Turf Wars — How Sport Transformed Wandsworth Common, Part II is now available to view on YouTube.

Video by John Crossland (thank you, John) of my talk to/for the Friends of Wandsworth Common, given Tuesday 29 November 2022.

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Stories about stag- and big-game hunting, cock-fighting, hare and hounds, bird-song-contests, duels, pugilism, quoits, and of course cricket (for example, how "Wandsworth Gentlemen" beat the MCC on Wandsworth), and some very interesting early images of tennis ("They are all tennis-mad here"), football, "rugby-netball" (an interesting very local sport), and hockey.

Unusual early photograph of girls playing hockey near the Three-Island Pond, c.1910. Possibly Clapham County Girls, whose new building on Broomwood Road opened 1909? Or, perhaps more likely, Royal Masonic School girls?

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Plus some observations on how the Common was transformed by new ball sports — trees and bushes grubbed up, the land levelled, drained, grassed, mown and rolled (though some new bumpy bits may have been created by the railway line on Bolingbroke Fields). Then white lines painted and repainted more or less everywhere, according to the season, much to the disgust of many who believed the Common should remain more "natural".

Treasure Hunts on Wandsworth Common, 1904

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Last month I mentioned that in 1904 a mania for "treasure hunting" seized the entire nation, leading to large swathes of Wandsworth Common (and many other places) being dug up. I promised I'd take up the story again.

Cases began to come to court all over the country. At Dulwich College, for example, "At 3.30 on Sunday morning there were altogether about thirty persons in Turney Road, some with candles, some with lamps, and some with matches. Some were working with penknives and others were trying to dig holes in the path with their fingers. A fine of 40s was imposed in each case."

The Magistrate replied "It is necessary to fine you to discourage people from committing these trivial offences. You must pay 2s 6d and 6d damages."

And on Wandsworth Common: "Three men of the labouring class . . . were summoned at the South-Western Court for damaging the turf of Wandsworth-common."

Daily Telegraph & Courier (London) — Tuesday 2 February 1904

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 . . .  Three men of the labouring class, named George Smith, 71, Selkirk-road, Tooting; James Forster, The Point, Wandsworth; and John Evans, 7, Waxwell-terrace, Westminster Bridge-road, were summoned at the South-Western Court for damaging the turf of Wandsworth-common.

Mr. Coltman, who appeared to prosecute for the London County Council, stated that hundreds of people visited the common with garden forks, bricklayers' trowels, and other implements, using them in search for the hidden treasure. In some cases the roots of trees were damaged, and the nuisance had become so great that the Council had no alternative but to institute the proceedings.

Hidden treasure? What were the crowds looking for exactly? The Dispatch obliged with an image:

"This is a facsimile — not necessarily the same size — of the £50 medallion. Beware of bogus discs planted by practical Jokers."

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More on this story, including where the "treasure" was buried on Wandsworth Common (and who found it)  . . . 

And while we're on the subject of turf . . . 

West London Observer — Saturday 8 February 1890


The Committee [of the London County Council] reported that is desirable to obtain turf for restoring the worn portions of Wandsworth Common; and we recommend — That, subject to an estimate being submitted to the Council by the Finance Committee, as required by the statute, the Council do authorise an expenditure ef £119 for the purchase of turf for use Wandsworth Common.

[BNA: Link]

Big Ben's Boom heard on Wandsworth Common, 6 February 1857


To the Editor of The Times.

Sir, — It may be interesting to you and your readers to hear that on a journey from Kensington to Upper Tooting on Tuesday last, across Battersea-bridge and Wandsworth-common, I most distinctly and clearly heard the boom of Big Ben, and that not a muffled, but a good, round, clear, and open note which to my ear (musically inclined) recognized, even beyond St James's Industrial Schools, as E. ["Echo" was right.] The wind was east.

It might be more interesting if on the next occasion of his roaring a few look-outs (or rather hear-outs) were stationed at different points — say, Kew, Richmond-hill, and even Windsor, to try and hear him.

J am, Sir, yours obediently.


The Houses of Parliament in 1858 — as you can see, work was continuing on the Clock or St Stephen's Tower after Big Ben cracked during trials in 1857. (It was renamed the Elizabeth Tower in 2012.)

Here is Gordon Bradley's view of London from Wandsworth Common in 1838, four years after the Houses of Parliament burned down (1834). Notice Westminster Abbey and St Paul's Cathedral in the centre-distance. In the 1850s, they may still have been visible from the Common. I don't know exactly when they disappeared from view.

Listen to the chimes and hour strikes by clicking on the pic below, or here.

Rugby-netball — Wandsworth, Clapham and Battersea's home-grown sport.

Sporting Life — Tuesday 6 February 1912

Rugby net-ball is allowed at Battersea Park, Clapham Common, and Wandsworth Common.

[BNA: Link]

Rugby-netball was played on Wandsworth and Clapham Commons before WWI. Some say it was created during the Boer War, to occupy troops camped out on the Common who would otherwise be fighting among themselves and smashing up local pubs.

[PB: It would be good to know if this is true. The earliest reference I've come across is 1906, but it was obviously well-established in the area by this time. Does anybody know?]

The earliest reference I know of to rugby-netball — a photograph from 1906 taken in Battersea. Alas, I can't quite read the words: "Batroggan Net Ball Athletic Club"? Does somebody have a higher resolution version?

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In the 1930s, the game had quite a presence.

British Movietone News, unknown date, probably 1937. Does anybody recognise the stadium?

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"Rugby-netball — that sounds like a new game.
But as a matter of fact they've played it on Wandsworth and Clapham Commons for more than a quarter of a century.

This match is at Wandsworth for charity,
between a side called [? and ?].

Except that there's no tackling below the knees or above the shoulders,
that forward passing is allowed,
that there are nets instead of goals
(and one or two other things),
the game's exactly like rugger.

The League team wins ten-six."

There's a more evocative version here:

Rugby-Netball In London 1937 — a rather more persuasive intro. to the game from British Pathe Gazette, 1937.

"This is a great struggle between Russell House and Wayfarers, both outstanding teams in the game . . . "
(Click on image to play the short video)

As you might imagine, the game was a cross between netball and rugby, with elements of football. It was free-flowing and very fast, with no kicking but a great emphasis on slick ball-handling. Forward passes were allowed, there was no off-side rule (phew), and no tackling below the knees or above the shoulders (to reduce the risk of injury?).

The goal was a large circular net, tilted slightly forwards to invite long-distance shots — which could very spectacular, if successful.

Rugby-netball continued to be popular until at least the 1960s. I recall it was only played in the summer, presumably to help players keep in shape during the off season. I suppose touch-rugby has taken over.

Here's a more recent view of the game, from BBC-TV in 2011:

"Meanwhile on Clapham Common there's a different version of the oval ball game. It's been going sine the end of the Boer War . . . "

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A game well worth reviving, I would have thought.

Since drafting these notes I've found some further info.

Rugby-netball was certainly being played on Clapham Common until quite recently — the "World Championships" were held there in 2011 ("We can officially call it that as Clapham Common is the only place in the world it's played"), and I've seen references to games in 2018. But now?

I'm not sure when, but in the early 2000s Rugby-Netball appears to have been rebranded "Netrugby".

Here are some links, in the hope that someone should want to pursue this:

Guest post from Reg Waite – Old Town rugby netball veteran.

I lived overlooking Clapham Common and from early teens watched Rugby Netball (as it was known in my day) most nights of the week. Three, four, even five matches a night with hundreds of supporters hugging the touchlines. A group of us youngsters "Can we borrow a ball, mister" played on the sidelines and practised goal shots during the match half time. At about 15 I joined my favourite team Old Town and played for about two years in the reserves, eager to improve and get in the 1st team.

See also the Netrugby News blog (though sadly no posts since April 2014).

And a FaceBook page (last posts 2019).

Do let me know if you find anything more. And if you have any old photographs of Rugby-netball, do please forward scans of them to me.

I mentioned the "Lost Houses and Gardens" project. Here's the sort of thing we have in mind.

Spencer Lodge demolished and its materials put up for auction, 1855.

Spencer Lodge and grounds on combined Battersea-Wandsworth Tithe maps of c.1840. Notice the new London-Southampton Railway running diagonally bottom right. [My pink outline.]

[Does the deviation in the Battersea-Wandsworth parish boundary to (largely) avoid Spencer Lodge and grounds suggest the hand of some owner of Spencer Lodge?]

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For comparison, here is roughly the same area today:

Spencer Lodge and grounds outlined on a recent aerial view — it once included most of the land between Vardens Road and (I think) Marcilly Road/the South Circular.

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The number of items in the sale, and the opulence of the materials, give an idea of just how impressive the house had been: "250,000 bricks, 10,000 slates and pantiles . . .  30 pairs modern sashes.. .handsome French casements . . .  60 internal doors . . .  statuary and Sienna marble pieces . . .  a pair of handsome Scagliola columns . . .  flight of Portland steps . . .  "

Morning Advertiser — Tuesday 6 February 1855

Valuable Building Materials of Spencer Lodge, Spencer-road, Wandsworth-road, and adjoining the Clapham-common Railway Station.

MR. F. HALL has been favoured with instructions to Sell by Auction, on the Premises, as above, To-morrow, Feb 7, and following day, at 12 for 1 precisely (on account of the number of lots), the excellent MATERIALS the above Mansion and offices, comprising 250,000 stock bricks, 10,000 slates and pantiles, large timber, long joist plates, quartering and rafters, 30 pairs modern sashes and frames, and handsome French casements, 60 internal room and other doors, handsome maple doors and fittings library, statuary and Sienna marble pieces, pair of handsome Scagliola columns, 60 squares of clean flooring-boards and battens, folding entrance-doors, pair of large yard-gates, handsome register and other stoves, 20 square of paving, flight of Portland steps, stone coping, rills and paving tiles, slate cisterns, verandas, kitchen fittings, a large quantity of useful old iron, firewood laths, &.

May be viewed, and Catalogues had on the premises; and of Mr. R. Hall, Building Material and General Auctioneer, Chester-street, Kennington.

[BNA: Link.]

Here is the house and nearby land thirty years earlier when its lease was up for sale in the July 1824 — "The whole containing together about Twenty Acres".

Notice its "Extensive gardens, pleasure-grounds, lawns, shrubbery, walks and fine meadow land  . . .  eight bedrooms, two drawing-rooms, closets and water-closet, dining-parlour 26ft by 19ft, elegant drawing-room, morning-room, gentleman's-room  . . .  coach-houses, excellent stabling, farm-yard and out-buildings entirely new; dairy, laundry and wash-house  . . . "

[* Twenty acres, by the way, is about the same area as all the grassy parts of the Cricket enclosure near Neal's Lodge — for comparison, the Scope is about 16 acres, and Trinity Fields just 7 acres.]

Volunteer regiments in case of emergency . . . 

Bognor Regis Observer — Wednesday 6 February 1895

An excellent and most useful innovation in the drill of our volunteers was made in London on Saturday evening.

The War Department desired to test how the metropolis could be protected by the citizen soldiers in case of emergency, and a great "turn-out" was ordered accordingly. The idea was that an invasion had taken place, and that the enemy was pushing on towards the capital from beyond Mitcham, with the result that the general in command of the Home District had determined to rendezvous his seven brigades of infantry at and around Clapham, so as to effectually block the main road to London.

It was at half-past five that the order to march was issued from the Horse Guards, and within an hour and three-quarters the many thousands of volunteers, who were assembled on the Thames-embankment, in would Q 1 Hyde-park, at the Horse Guards, at various great West-end barracks, and at Camberwell, had reached their assigned points on Clapham and Wandsworth-commons and at Clapham-park and Tooting.

General Lord Methuen, the Commander of the Home District, showed himself remarkably well pleased with the success of the movement; and, although there were some points of detail which demanded friendly criticism, the whole was a decided triumph for the volunteers.

[BNA: Link]

Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle — Sunday 7 February 1847

It was an unusually long race — seven miles. Did it take place entirely on the Common, where spectators could view the race at all times, or did they also run on local lanes and roads, like hare-and-hounds competitors? My guess is the former.

Note the breathless pace of the first sentence!

H. Strip and J. Heaver's match to walk for seven miles, for £5 a side, came off on Tuesday on Wandsworth Common, and although for so small a stake, the interest was much more exciting than is often the case in the great matches, and nearly 2000 spectators assembled, a good deal of money being sported on the event at 6 to 4 on Heaver, who is a smart little fellow, about seventeen years of age, standing only five feet one inch, and his opponent, who is a Birmingham youth, is very thin, and stands five feet eight inches, and was backed by Birmingham men who are now working in London.

At a little after three o'clock the sign was given and they set off at a very smart pace. Heaver, however, had the turn of speed, and took the lead, gained ground fast, and at the turn of the first mile was twenty yards ahead; at the second mile he was thirty yards in advance, exceedingly chop-fallen, for the friends Heaver made a certainty of winning, and freely offered 3 to 1 on their man, who continued to gain ground, and at the fifth mile was leading by eighty yards, but he now showedi symptoms of distress, and fell off in pace.

The Brums observing this went up to their man, urged him on to increased exertion, and Strip gained fifty yards in the next half mile, and just before they turned the sixth mile he passed Heaver and led the way at a very good pace, ultimately going in a winner by a dozen yards, much to the joy of his friends, who at one time made up their minds that their man could not win, for at the fifth mile 6 to 1 was freely offered against him, but no takers could be found.

The winner accomplished the distance on a very hilly and heavy road, in 1 hour 4 minutes — not bad work for such youths.

The stakes are to handed over to the winner on Tuesday next, at Temperance's.

[BNA: Link]

Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle — Sunday 7 February 1847

MAR 1. — Norton of Windsor and Roberts of Somers Town — to walk ten miles, £5 a side, on Wandsworth Common, Norton giving one minute start.

[BNA: Link]

London Evening Standard — Saturday 2 February 1867




Annie Walters, 22, of Westmeon, Petersfield, North Hants, was placed in the dock, charged with attempting to commit suicide.

Police-constable Wilson said that about eleven o'clock last night he was on duty on Wandsworth-common, when he heard the cries of a female for help. He hastened to a piece of water called the "Black Sea," where he found the prisoner. She was reclining in the water with her left arm and head above the surface.

He went into the water and brought her to the bank, when, she appearing to be getting exhausted, he remained with her for several minutes and then took her to the station.

Mr. Dayman — Was she out of her depth?

Constable — No, sir.

Mr. Dayman — Was she then leaning on the bank?

Constable — She could not have been resting on the bank as the water was up to my breast. She said she had had a quarrel with her husband, and she meant to drown herself.

Mr. Dayman (to the prisoner) — What have you to say?

Prisoner — At present I can't say much. I should like to speak when I am more composed.

The Constable — Her friends are here.

Mr. Dayman — She is remanded for a week, and she can compose herself in the interim.

The prisoner was then removed to the cells.

It was stated that the constable had only been in the force about fortnight, and was quite ignorant of the depth of water in the "sea".

[BNA: Link]

You could almost say there was a "tradition" of suicide by drowning in the Black Sea, including 26-year-old Amelia Alfrey (or Alfery), who attempted to kill herself and her children there in July 1844. They were rescued — as was Amelia McDougal Pringle two years later (February 1846).

However eighteen-year-old Lucy Upton, "the daughter of respectable parents residing at Wandsworth-plain" was "found by a labourer lying in the water of a pond called the 'Black Sea,' upon Wandsworth-common, and there is no doubt but that the deceased committed suicide while in a state of temporary insanity, caused by a fit of jealousy" — she had "become very much attached to a young man, the son of a licensed victualler in the neighbourhood, and she had latterly seen him in company with another young woman, which roused her jealousy, and she had been heard to declare that she would make a hole in the water for him."

Looking across the Black Sea towards the Royal Victoria Patriotic Asylum, c.1870 (just before it was filled in and Spencer Park built over much of it).

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Our current lake was dug shortly after the Black Sea was filled in (c. 1871). Thirty-six-year-old Annie Elisabeth Pyne died there in December 1904, and Adelaide Potter, a widow, in January 1928. In November 1941 Torfrida Hetty Ellis Cox was found drowned in the lake after a violent argument with her husband (The coroner recored that there was insufficient evidence to show how she came into the water.)

All the cases are of actual or attempted drowning that I know of are by women — men used other methods (for example in February 1863 the postmaster and baker William Cades, who lived in York Road, ran down the embankment near the Patriotic Asylum and threw himself in front of a Brighton-bound train).

Globe — Saturday 11 February 1871

While the Wandsworth Common Bill was being piloted through the Houses of Parliament, a split occurred in the campaign — the local District Board of Works loudly objected to John Buckmaster et al's plans. Instead of local control by elected Conservators who would keep the Common entire and intact, the local Board preferred it to be handed over to the London-wide Metropolitan Board of Works.

The Wandsworth District Board of Works has resolved by 17 votes to 9 to object to the bill about to be presented to Parliament in favour of purchasing Wandsworth Common out of the fund recently collected (called the Peek Fund), and its maintenance out of a local rate not exceeding a halfpenny. The opponents to this scheme propose that the common should be in the care of the Metropolitan Board of Works.

[BNA: Link]

And this in spite (or probably because) of the fact that the MBW say they will sell a considerable fraction of the Common as the price of their saving what remained. (Several powerful members of the District Board are local builders or property developers.)

Fortunately, local activists such as John Buckmaster and Edwin Ransome were horrified, the MBW did not get its hands on the Common (at least until the end of the 1880s, just before the LCC took over), and the Common was thereby saved more or less intact "for ever".

As late as 1920 and 1921 a large part of the Common — often called the "Extension" or "Neal's Farm" (and now the "Cricket Field") — was still occupied by the 3rd London General Hospital.

The land had been acquired by the London County Council in 1912 to be restored to the Common, having formed about a third of the total area sold by Lord Spencer (illegally or at least immorally, according to most local people) to the Royal Patriotic Asylum in the late 1850s.

Harry Fullwood's marvellous aerial view of the 3rd London general Hopsital in 1915. Notice the hunts and tents covering much of the Extension behind.

Here's a little video I made of it:

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But before much could be done to restore the land, the First World War began and the Asylum was repurposed as the "3rd London General Hospital".

Even after the last patient left (which I think was in 1920), a lot of "ugly accumulations" — buildings and equipment — remained.

"But, oh, to be that Last Patient!"

From the last issue of The Gazette of the 3rd London General Hospital, July 1919. Clearly there were still patients in the RVPA at this time.
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In 1920, the Globe reported that "There is no sign of this land being thrown open to the public this summer." And this was becoming intolerable: "As the summer draws on, the need for the parks will become more strongly felt, and His Majesty's First Commissioner Works, who is responsible for housing all the Government Departments, will find that the London public attaches the same value its parks it did."

South Western Star — Friday 25 February 1921


The question of the continued occupation of Wandsworth Common Extension (Neal's Farm) by the War Office was considered. The War Office had itself stated that the 3rd London General Hospital was closed in July last, and that the last of the huts and other surplus property had been passed to the Disposal Board in September 1920.

In view of the facts it was thought that the time had come when the various authorities interested in the extension should be urged to take steps to secure its early reversion to the use of the public for games and recreation. It was unanimously agreed that a letter in these terms be sent to the War Office, Wandsworth Borough Council, Battersea Borough Council, and the London County Council.

On the suggestion of Alderman J Plumridge, it was also decided that the attention of the last three bodies should he drawn to the opportunity of finding work for of the unemployed.

[BNA: Link]

The last sentence is especially interesting. Unemployed men had on a number of occasions in the past been "given" work on the Common — chiefly laying and tarmacing paths. Were they also used in the early 1920s on the Extension/Cricket Area, perhaps creating the new tennis courts and bowling green?

Morning Advertiser — 14 February 1838

MANGEL WURZEL — A considerable quantity of perfectly sound on SALE. Inquire of F. Meads, at the Farm, Burntwood-lane, between Wandsworth Common and Garrett-lane.

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The Mangel-Wurzel [or Mangold-Wurzel, from the German for "Chard" and "Root"] is a kind of giant beetroot bred in the C18 mainly to feed cattle, pigs and horses. [It was also called the "Root of Scarcity" because . . . ] The warm south-west-facing slopes here meant it grew well even in winter. It was planted in autumn and harvested in the new year — vital when other sources of animal feed had run low. The roots and leaves are juicy, so quite a relief from dry grain and hay.

The probable source of the mangel-wurzels — Beeman's farm and fields at the lower end of Burntwood Lane. Tithe map of Wandsworth Parish, c.1840, rotated anti-clockwise to conform to the usual north-side orientation.

"Garret Great Green" (opposite the farm) is still there as "Garrett Green", but "Garret Little Green" was enclosed shortly after the map was made. Livestock was herded between these and Wandsworth Common up Burntwood Lane, and as far as Clapham Common along Nightingale Lane. The nearby County Asylum was opened in 1841, as you can see inscribed in the brickwork on the front of the main building. Burntwood School (for girls) occupies the site of the old Springfield House.
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Mangel-wurzel wagon, Lucy Kemp Welch [date/source]

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Worzel Gummidge, TV series written, directed and starring Mackenzie Crook, based on books by Barbara Euphan Todd (1936—1963). In the books the scarecrow Worzel is married to Earthy Mangold.

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Oxford Chronicle and Reading Gazette — Saturday 15 February 1868

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At the Southwark police-court on Tuesday, Henry Lovett, 11 years of age, whose head scarcely reached the top of the dock, was charged with stealing a horse, the property of some person unknown.

Police-constable 26 M said that about nine o'clock he was on duty in the Blackfriars-road, when he saw the prisoner leading a horse up Friar-street. Being so very young he followed him, and saw him turn into Green-street, where he rang the bell Winkley's, the horse slaughterer's, and wanted to dispose of it

Witness went up to him and asked whose horse it was, and not getting a satisfactory reply took him to the station-house. He had since told witness that he had fetched the horse from Wandsworth-common.

Mr. Burcham asked whether there was anybody else with him? The constable replied that there was a younger boy with him — Alfred Green, quite a child, was then put forward, and he said the other boy asked him with to go with him to Wandsworth-common to get a horse. He did not know what he was going with it.

The constable informed his worship that the parents of both boys were hard-working people, but he was of opinion that some older persons had got hold of them.

Mr. Buchanan said he could not think of detaining such a young child for horse stealing. The horse would detained, and the child given up to his father.

[BNA: Link]

Also e.g. South London Chronicle


London Courier and Evening Gazette — Monday 19 February 1838

Cock-fights in a Wandsworth Common beer-shop

The Cockpit, from Pierce Egan's Book of Sports, 1832

(Click on image to enlarge)

COCK FIGHTING, Joseph Page, a gardener, Charles Bailey and Joseph Deane, livery servants, and Thomas Pratt, a silk-printer, were charged at Union-hall office, by Rogerson and Piper, constables the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, with aiding at a cock-fight on Monday.

It appeared that the constable went a beer-shop on Wandsworth-common, and saw Bailey and Deane fighting two cocks, the defendant Page having stationed himself at the door for the purpose of receiving the admission money.

One of the cocks having been killed by the spur entering its head, two more, cocks were matched, when one of the birds belonging to Pratt was also killed.

Several other cocks were fought, in which sport all the defendants look an active part, and they were taken into custody.

In the absence of evidence that they had been previously engaged in such scenes, the Magistrate mitigated the fine to 20s. each, which the defendants paid, and thereby saved themselves from imprisonment for fourteen days.

[BNA: Link]

I wonder where this "beer-shop" was? And where and what was Union Hall?

[Union Hall, on Union Street, Southwark: "In 1782 the Union Hall was opened as the Surrey Magistrates Court in the borough, the JPs having previously sat at the Town Hall in the High Street. The façade of the Hall was retained on the new structure on the site in 2005." The magistrates were legally qualified, not lay.]

I must say I was surprised to learn there was a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals as early as 1838 (indeed, it was founded in 1824), and that local people — notably William Wilberforce — were key to its formation. As you might imagine, from the start it was opposed to the harsh use of animals, to vivisection, and to cruel amusements such as fox-hunting, bull-baiting, and (as here) cock-fighting.

Princess Victoria was an early supporter, hence it was granted royal status soon after she acceded to the throne. (Its equivalent, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, was not founded until the 1880s.)

Cockfighting, London Courier, 19 February 1838

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Surrey Pauper Lunatic Asylum

Given all the changes taking place on the Springfield Hospital site, I had intended to write a number of stories about the early history of the Surrey Pauper Lunatic Asylum on Burntwood Lane, including:

But I've run out of time, so I'll have to try again later.

I came to the subject partly because my wife Maggie and I walk through the grounds quite frequently, and it's been interesting to see the changes. But also because of the way that the idea of "heritage" plays in the sale of the new properties.

The fact that this was once a "pauper lunatic asylum" is never mentioned in publicity blurbs — it's always described (doubtless less troublingly) as a Victorian "hospital".

You might care to decode this glam-shot, for example:

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But in the meanwhile there is this curious tale, of Hare-and-Hounds racers getting lost en route to their clubhouse in Roehampton and crossing the asylum grounds in 1872:

Sporting Gazette — Saturday 17 February 1872

Two Thames Hares leading a pack of hounds towards the Surrey Lunatic Asylum and Wandsworth Common.

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Part of the route taken by the Thames Hare and Hounds racers. They had started from Roehampton, crossed Putney Heath and Wimbledon Common, then cut across "below" Eaerl Spencer's Wimbledon Park.

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Feb. 10. Last Saturday was fixed for the last regular Saturday afternoon winter run of this club, and a very fair meet assembled at Roehampton . . . 

After starting up the road past the Well House the scent lay right round the Bowling Green housed over some rough ground, including gravel pits ad libitum.

It was then picked up over the heath land, past Wimbledon Mill to the Pound, and so down the High-street to Wimbledon-lane, the pace being very hot for the first two miles, Fuller and Syers then leading, closely waited on by Scott and Burt.

The hounds then found themselves under the park and above the railway, which they crossed and made for Durnsford-road [1], passing the Wandle by Copper Mills Bridge [2].

Passing the Plough [3] they were cheered by the information that the hares were but a very little way ahead.

The latter had, it seems, made a bad shoot for Garrett Green [4], which they missed, eventuating on the grounds of the Surrey County Lunatic Asylum [5], whence they were hotly pursued by a large detachment of keepers and physicians, who, unaccustomed to paper chase costume, not unnaturally mistook them for escaped maniacs.

These, however, not being in other than medical training, tired after a few fields, and the chase was resumed by the legitimate pursuers round Tooting on to Wandsworth Common, when the hounds caught sight of the hares jogging along by a lane near Burntwood [6].

The promised run to sight then began, and was continued past the Surrey County Prison [7], to the no small delight of the police there assembled, until both hares were run down on the railway bridge near the Patriotic Asylum [8] by Fuller and Syers.

A fresh start was made from the corner of Alfarthing [9], the bags being taken by the invalided honorary secretary in a trap, who drew his unsuspecting followers down St. Ann's Hill and North-street [10], to the Wandle Bridge [11], and so up the High-street of Wandsworth, to the utter astonishment of the natives.

West Hill and Cutthroat-lane brought the men to Putney Heath, and home to Roehampton . . . 

The foremost hounds were in at 5.54, having been away 1 hour 19 min, including a 2 min halt at Wandsworth Common, which proved the run have been a very fast one, for the distance traversed could not have been short of 11 ½ miles . . . 

In all probability there will be a really long run arranged for Thanksgiving Day.

[BNA: Link]

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Western Times — Wednesday 22 February 1871

Daylight Aurora on Wandsworth Common

For the Note-book of the curious I here record [that] . . .  four of my friends witnessed (what has not been elsewhere noticed) a daylight Aurora over Wandsworth Common, the clouds about two o'clock forming an arch of brick red, whilst a well-defined mock Sun, some 5 degrees off its real image, and level with it, was visible for nearly an hour, the Aurora lasting only a few minutes; Sun's declination 24-25 degrees at noon.

"Invicta," Mark Lane.

[BNA: Link]

Does anybody know what this is about? The "aurora" must be the phenomenon better known as the Northern Lights, but is it ever seen this far south — and during the daytime? I know mid-C19 scientists debated the question, but I have no idea what they concluded. Are there any keen astronomers out there who can clarify?

Here's an aurora at night within the Arctic Circle — but what would the one on Wandsworth Common have looked like during the daytime?

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Here's another "Lost Houses and Gardens" story:

Morning Chronicle — Wednesday 26 February 1823

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MR. PHILLIPS respectfully announces, that on Saturday next, at One, by Order of the Administrators, he shall Submit by AUCTION, at his Great Rooms, New Bond-street, TWO CELLARS of excellent FRENCH and FOREIGN WINES, selected with judgment from favourite vintages, and greatly matured by time, the entire Property of the late


which will be Sold without reserve, and delivered from the Cellars of his Residences, at Wandsworth Common, and Bullard's, — near Croydon, Three Hundred and Twenty Dozens of Old Port, Madeira, Sherry, Marcellas, Hock, Malmsey, Constantia, Burgundy, Champagne, Bucellas, Claret, Noyeau, Usquebagh, Rum, Hollands, &c. &c. The Ports have been in bottle eight and twelve years, and have retained their high flavour and colour.

The Wines may be tasted at the time of sale, and will be warranted to accord with the samples exhibited, and removed from the binns as numbered, and an arrangement made for the removal to the purchasers at an early expence.

Catalogues will be ready on Thursday next; and then to be had at the Auction Mart; and 73, New Bond-street.

[BNA: Link]

The house itself, and three acres of pleasure grounds, were advertised earlier in the month, on 13th February 1823:

"Burntwood Lodge, an elegant Cottage Villa, delightfully situate on a pleasing eminence, commanding beautiful views of Lord Spencer's Park, late the residence and property of Augustus Frederick Pieschell, Esq. deceased . . . "

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Augustus Frederick Pieschell — who he? Ah, another story for another time . . . 

[Note: Should you want to look up AFP for yourself, it may be worth searching not only for "Pieschell" but also "Pleschell", since search engines (and some authors) see the "i" as an "l".]

Daily Herald — Friday 24 February 1939

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SHOTS were fired into a crowded London business train near Wandsworth Common. S.W. last evening.

Two holes were blown in a compartment window and passengers Mr. A J. Twyman. of Churchmoore were sprinkled with glass. No one was hurt.

The train was the 5.38 p.m. from Victoria to Epsom Downs.

Last night a Southern Railway official said to the "Daily Herald".

Shots of some kind — we cannot say whether they were from revolver — were fired at the 5.38 after the train left Clapham Junction.

"Two holes were made in the window above the door of a compartment."

Scotland Yard said that it was believed the shots had been fired by children from a Wandsworth playground, probably with an airgun.

Mr A.J. Twyman, of Churchmoore-street, Streatham, who was in the compartment with eight others, said last night:

"Just as we came out of the cutting outside Clapham Junction there was a crash.

We were too astonished to do much until the train arrived at Streatham Common.

I had splintered glass over my legs."

Daily Mirror — Friday 24 February 1939

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TOO surprised to pull the communication cord, ten passengers in a Southern Railway carriage travelling from Victoria to Epsom Downs, were showered with glass when two bullets bored holes the size of half-crowns in the centre window of the carriage.

One passenger, Mr. Dennis Osmond, told the "Daily Mirror" last night : "The train was passing over Wandsworth Common when I happened to glance out of the window. I saw two young men jump up from some bushes and raise what looked like a rifle.

"Then there were two sharp cracks and two holes appeared in the window of the carriage."

All the passengers escaped injury.

The incident was reported at Streatham Common station.

The stationmaster was called. He could find no bullets.

Mr A.J.Twiman, of Churchmmore Road, Streatham, SW, told the "Daily Mirror" how, by the fraction of a second, the bullets missed striking any of the passengers.

"A woman sitting in the corner had broken glass all over her skirt, he said.

Fortunately my face was protected from the glass by the magazine I was reading.

The Southern Sailway stated last night that the matter was in the hands of the Metropolitan Police.

The extension of Trinity Road into an underpass, leading to the "squarabout" and Wandsworth Bridge, 1970

Drat! I really wanted to write about this at some length. It completely transformed the social geography of the area — houses and streets were destroyed, land was taken from the Common (but other areas added), new routes were created, and traffic grew. But this will have to wait too.

Stanford, 1905

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Fulham Chronicle — Friday 27 February 1970

Opening of new road

Frustrated local motorists who have the unenviable daily task of going to or coming from business on the other side of Wandsworth Bridge will be pleased to know that the new Southern Approach will be opened to traffic in the immediate future.

This road replaces the present narrow approaches to Wandsworth Bridge from the south. It provides a direct link between the bridge and Trinity Road with a roundabout at the intersection with York Road, and slip roads giving access to East Hill and Wandsworth Common.

This new route, freed from conflict with the major east-west traffic flows on the A3, should provide easier and safer traffic conditions in the Wandsworth area.

[BNA: Link]

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