The History of Wandsworth Common

of Wandsworth Common

APRIL 2022

"April brings the sweet spring showers,
On and on for hours and hours.

Flanders and Swann, A Song of the Weather.

Whistler's Woman in White: Joanna Hiffernan
[James McNeill Whistler, Symphony in White, No.1, 1862. (National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.)]
(Click on image to enlarge)

A couple of days ago I visited the wonderful Woman in White exhibition at the Royal Academy, which includes many of the paintings Whistler made of his "friend, model, lover and collaborator" Joanna Hiffernan.

I noticed this "Last Will and Testament", drawn up when Whistler just before set off on a possibly risky trip to South America. He left all his worldly goods to Joanna.

Whistler's Last Will and Testament, 31 January 1866. You can see the text more clearly here.
His executors were Dante Gabriel Rossetti and James Anderson Rose.
(Click on image to enlarge)

Normally I wouldn't spend much time squinting through perspex at such an artefact, but I'm glad I did.

I noticed his executors were Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and — most interestingly for me — his solicitor, James Anderson Rose. But Rose was much more than his lawyer; he was also a close friend and adviser, and perhaps his greatest patron. Certainly Rose had the largest collection of Whistler's etchings.

(Rose was also deeply involved in the famous court case in 1878 when Whistler sued John Ruskin for ridiculing his art — Ruskin had described one of his paintings it as "daub professing to be a 'harmony in pink and white' (or some such nonsense); absolute rubbish, and which had taken about a quarter of an hour to scrawl or daub") and for calling him a "coxcomb". But Rose probably didn't give very good legal advice. Whistler won his case — but received only a farthing in damages.)

But hey, what's all this got to do with Wandsworth Common?

Well, Rose lived for much of his life in a large house in a substantial park-like garden next door to Fernside, facing Wandworth Common Station — more or less on the site of today's Airedale Road. Doubtless Whistler, Hiffernan and many other artists knew it well.

I hope one day to write more about JAR, who was one of the most ardent campaigners for Wandsworth Common — for example, he was a signatory to the "Great and Good" poster of 1870:

(Click on image to enlarge)

This month's Chronicles are a bit rough and ready — I'd like to have spent more time tidying them up, and adding commentaries, but I've had other projects to work on.

On Tuesday 26 April, all being well, I'll be giving a talk for the Friends of Wandsworth Common to be called something like "Maps and the Making of Wandsworth Common, 1633 to the present". I'll probably start with the earliest detailed map I know, Peter Gardner's plan of Allfarthing Manor (made for the new lord of the manor Endymion Porter). It was badly damaged by water was dismantled, cleaned and repaired in 1995-6 by the Surrey History Centre at Woking.

This is a low-resolution image of the original. At first sight, it's pretty unpromising. But the more you look at the map in higher resolutions, the more fascinating it becomes.
(Click on image to enlarge)

I'll be following this up with a similarly-themed talk for the Wandsworth Historical Society later on Friday 29 April at the Friends Meeting House

(Advance notice: At the end of May I will be talking about Sporting Wandsworth Common, as part of the Friends of Wandsworth Common's contribution to the Heritage fortnight. More news about this at the beginning of May.)

This month's stories

 — Women in White, James McNeill Whistler and James Anderson Rose  . . . 

 — A new prison, but where to put it?

 — Charles Knight sentenced to 15 years' transportation

 — Edward Thomas, In Memoriam (Easter, 1915)  . . . 

 — "LOST!!! One thousand pounds reward""

 — A railway and a barracks

 — Have some Madeira, m'dear

 — The death of Edward Thomas, Easter 1917, at Arras

 — Wandsworth Common: The Musical

 — Shooting a dog

 — Death of a Lunatic

 — The Nightingale, a flight of Cuckoos, and bird-trapping

 — A suicide through jealousy

 — Dangerous holes

 — Attacking the Salvation Army

 — Surely this is Fernside?

 — Two wheels good, four wheels bad

 — Bird trapping

 — The Hope for sale

 — The trouble with cricket

 — Baby abandoned in a cabbage patch

 — A wife and house for Revd Moseley

 — To pond or not to pond?  . . . 

 — The Vote and suffrage meetings on the Common

 — Samuel Sullings imprisoned

 — Oswald Parsons, the first known fence-breaker — and the "Magna Charta"


and more...

Welshman — Friday 2 April 1847

A prison for Wandsworth, but where?

A new Prison for Surrey, estimated to cost £110,000 has been ordered to be built, the site to be either Garratt-lane or Wandsworth Common.

Brixton House of Correction, built to contain 200 inmates, now holds more than 600. Distress amongst the poorer classes, caused by the high price of provisions, is the cause to which this increase of crime is attributed.

[BNA: Link.]

Wandsworth had been eyed up as the location of a gigantic "National Penitentiary" for more than 50 years — close to London, but not too close.

First, "Wandsworth Field" (probably Bridge Field — now the Tonsleys and nearby — but possibly an area near today's Wandsworth Park) seemed a good bet, but local people became very exercised about this and the purchase didn't go ahead.

Then a site of around 80 acres of Battersea market gardens from St John's Hill down to York Road was selected. This was philosopher Jeremy Bentham's favoured site for the building of a National Penitentiary — to his "Panopticon" design of c.1791. A canal was to be cut from the Thames into the prison grounds, to provide an abundant supply of drinking water (!), and possibly a more secure way of bringing prisoners in and out.

The favoured site for a new "National Penitentiary" outlined on a Stanford map of a century later.
The best account is Keith Bailey, "Battersea and 'The National Penitentiary'", in Aspects of Battersea History, 1770-1910, Wandsworth Historical Society, 2010.]

But there were problems in purchasing this site too — largely because the major landowner (Earl Spencer) was reluctant to lower the tone of an area "on the up" — it would surely reduce the value of building land nearer the Common.

If Bentham had had his way, where would the later railway lines have run? And what of Clapham Junction station? How different south-west London would have been.

When the prison was finally opened (as the Surrey House of Correction in 1851) it was at the top of the hill, on gravel, and quite away-from-it-all. The location was much "healthier" than the industrialised Wandle Valley or the banks of the Thames. Water was supplied from a deep well [depth?] and the Governor prided himself on the comparatively low death rates. Prisoners were, it seems, safer in prison than out.

(Click on image to enlarge)

But in the first half of the nineteenth century transportation to Australia seemed a better — or at least cheaper — alternative to incarceration.

John Bull — Saturday 17 April 1841

"Charles Knight... tried for stealing a mare from Wandsworth Common... sentenced to 15 years' transportation."

Charles Knight and John Taylor were indicted for stealing a horse, the property of W. Pryor, from Battersea Marshes. The horse was found on the premises of H. Towell, horse slaughterer, together with another belonging to H. Hussey, stolen the same night from the Marsh.

Mr. Towell proved having purchased them for 50s. each of Knight, Taylor having the charge of them.

The Jury found Knight guilty, and acquitted Taylor, considering that he acted servant to the other prisoner.

They were then tried for stealing a mare from Wandsworth Common, the property of W. Mellish, and in this instance also the Jury found Knight guilty and acquitted Taylor.

... the Court sentenced Knight to 15 years' transportation.

[BNA: Link. There are detailed reports of Knight and Taylor in the Old Bailey here and here.]

Charles Knight is described as 22, so his DOB was c.1819.

There are quite a number of transportees listed in the records with the name "Charles Knight", but I think this may be him — the court, the year, and his sentence all fit:

Charles Knight

Convicted at: Central Criminal Court
Sentence term: 15 years
Ship: Isabella
Departure date: 15th January, 1842
Arrival date: 19th May, 1842
Place of arrival Van Diemen's Land
Passenger manifest Travelled with 269 other convicts

[Convict Records: Charles Knight "Van Diemen's Land" was renamed Tasmania in 1856 — since the name was so easily "demonised".]

If so, this is the ship he went out on:

Isabella — a 427-ton merchantman built in 1818 that made six voyages transporting convicts (including Charles Knight) to Australia.
(Click on image to enlarge)

There's clearly a lot more to discover about Charles Knight, including his life in Australia. Does anybody fancy trying (and for other transportees from our area)? If so, let me know and I'll do what I can to help.

4 April 1915

In Memoriam (Easter, 1915)

by Edward Thomas

The flowers left thick at nightfall in the wood
This Eastertide call into mind the men,
Now far from home, who, with their sweethearts, should
Have gathered them and will do never again.

Monday 9 April 1917 — death of Edward Thomas at Arras.

Edward Thomas, who grew up near Wandsworth Common — first on Wakehurst Road, then Shelgate Road — was killed on Easter Monday 1917, within moments of the start of the Battle of Arras/Vimy Ridge, northern France.

He was 39 — much older than his fellows — and had a wife and three children. Most of his friends were astonished that he had signed up.

Edward Thomas and fellow-soldiers, training camp, 1915 [check]
(Click on image to enlarge)

Here is a consolatory letter to Helen, Edward's wife, from his commanding officer. Helen (nee Noble) had lived at 6 Patten Road before their marriage. Much of their "courting" had occurred on the Common, including their first kiss. Photographs of Helen with their first child, Merfyn, were taken at Dorrett and Martin's studio on Bellevue Road.

(Click on image to enlarge)

10 April 1917

Dear Mrs Thomas,

You will have heard by now from Mr Thorburn of the death in action of your husband. I asked him to write immediately we knew about it yesterday, but delayed writing myself until the funeral from which I have just returned. I cannot express to you adequately in words how deep our sympathy is for you and your children in your great loss. These things go too deep for mere words. We, officers and men, all mourn our own loss. Your husband was very greatly loved in this battery, and his going has been a personal loss to each of us.

He was rather older than most of the officers and we all looked up to him as the kind of father of our happy family. He was always the same, quietly cheerful and ready to do any job that was going with the same steadfast unassuming spirit. The day before his death we were rather heavily shelled and he had a very narrow shave. But he went about his work quite quietly and ordinarily as if nothing was happening.

I wish I could convey to you the picture of him, a picture we had all learnt to love, of the old clay pipe, gum boots, oilskin coat, and steel helmet. With regard to his actual death you have probably heard the details. It should be of some comfort to you to know that he died as a moment of victory from a direct hit by a shell, which must have killed him outright without giving him a chance to realise anything — a gallant death for a very fine and gallant gentleman.

We buried him in a little military cemetery a few hundred yards from the battery, the exact spot will be notified to you by the parson. As we stood by his grave the sun came out and the guns around seem[ed] to stop firing for a short time. This typified to me what stood out most in your husband's character, the spirit of quiet, sunny, unassuming cheerfulness.

When I get to England again I shall be happy to come and tell you anything more you'd like to know. My address is The White House, Heath End, Farnham, Surrey, and I will write you in case you would like to see me.

Yours very sincerely,

Franklin Lushington

(Major Comdg 244 Siege Bty RGA)

Edward Thomas RIP — Easter Monday 1917

(After Scarlet Ribbons)

by Nick Pruce

He played in the scrubby wastes,
Learned to love the wildwood fair,
Hid and hunted in the thickets,
Gorse and hawthorn clustered there.

Efts and carp haunted the waters
Of the rushy Long Pond there,
Sticklebacks and gudgeon thrilled him,
Unseen foxes sniffed the air.

When he heard the guns at Arras,
Did he yearn for elms and poplars?
Did he see the Common's greenness
Sorrel leaves and chestnuts fair?
Did he dream of Sioux and Huron,
Childhood games that he played there?

Did he think of knights and Pickwick,
Games of conkers that he shared?
As the shell that killed him landed,
Was the wildwood with him there?

 — "Scarlet Ribbons" — many versions on YouTube but none gets anywhere near Harry Belafonte's.

 — Wikipedia: Edward Thomas (poet).

 — Wikipedia: Battle of Arras.

 — GreatWarForum: 244th Siege Battery location 9th April 1917.

 — Seek out also the fine memorial poems by Eleanor Farjeon and WH Davis.

For the background to the writing of this song/poem, see the next entry.

Wandsworth Common: The Musical

Sometime in 2019 I had a whacky idea for an all-singing all-dancing show, to be called Wandsworth Common: The Musical. We would aim for a performance to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the saving of the Common in July 2021. My friend Nick Pruce, who grew up near Wandsworth Common, agreed to write songs for the show. And he did a brilliant job of it. But Covid put a stop to further progress. (On the other hand, the Wandsworth Common Story was produced.)

If anybody is interested in reviving the project in some way — perhaps by recording or making videos of the songs — please get in touch.

South London Press — Saturday 4 April 1868

LOST!!! One thousand pounds reward.

(Click on image to enlarge)



Whoever findeth the same, and brlngs it to G.FERRIS,



(Late of the Falcon Tavern, Wandsworth Road)



On the borders of Wandsworth Common.

[BNA: Link.]

Surrey Tavern, on the corner of Trinity Road and Bellevue.
A windy day c.1910.
(Click on image to enlarge)

South London Journal — Tuesday 14 April 1857

A new railway opens across Wandsworth Common, but eager passengers are disappointed

(Click on image to enlarge)


The announcement that the Crystal Palace would be open on the afternoon of Good Friday drew a large number of intended visitors to the terminus on Wandsworth Common, but the arrangements were so inadequate, that considerable disappointment was experienced, not only at that point, but all along the line between it and the Palace. The trains ran only at very long intervals, and when they did run, there was a deficiency of carriages to convey the passengers.

[BNA: Link.]

A barracks and couple of regiments of Guards?

The opening of the railway also caused excitement among military men.

If a prison could be built near the Common, and a lunatic asylum, some orphanages, and a workhouse, why not an army barracks too? In an "emergency", trains would quickly bring the army into town. Otherwise the soldiers could simply march in.

(Click on image to enlarge)


THE Commissioners, in their Report on the Sanitary Condition of the Army, have recorded their opinion that the defective construction, the want of ventilation, and the over-crowded state of the barracks ket: contribute in a very great degree to produce that per excess of mortality which has been found to exist in the Army as compared with the civil population at the same ages...

Why should not the experiment be made of hutting the two battalions of Guards within a short distance of London?

There would be no great difficulty in getting sufficient space to erect hut barracks at Wandsworth-common, or some other point on the Crystal Palace Railway, by which the troops could on an emergency be brought into London in as short a time as if they were at St. John's-wood; while on ordinary occasions they might be marched into town...

[BNA: Link.]

Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser — Wednesday 7 April 1824

60 dozen bottles of Port and 15 dozen of Madeira from a Wandsworth Common cellar to be sold by auction.

(Click on image to enlarge)


Choice Wines — By WINSTANLEY and SONS

At the AUCTION MART, near the Bank of England,

On FRIDAY, the 9th Instant, at One,

Small Quantity excellent PORT, consisting of about 60 dozen, bottled the years 1808, 1810, 1811, and 1813; and 15 dozen of Tinta Madeira, the property of a Gentleman removing from his residence on Wandsworth Common, from whence the Wine will be regularly permitted to the purchasers.

Samples may be had previous to the day of Sale, with Catalogues, of Winstanley and Son, Paternoster Row; Catalogues also at the Mart.

[BNA: Link.]

This "gentleman removing from his residence on Wandsworth Common" was Augustus Pechell, who for some reason was often called "Pleschell" or "Pieschell". He was leaving Burtnwood Lodge, near the Grange and Collamore at the top of Burntwood Lane. Of Mr Pechell/Pieschell/Pleshell another time.

NB: Have some Madeira, m'dear (a saucy song by Flanders & Swann).

The Times — 11 April 1860

Shooting a dog on Wandsworth Common.

You may recall in last month's Chronicles the outrage caused by this case, which came to court on April 10.

(Click on image to enlarge)


Yesterday was appointed for the return of the summons against Mr. John Kerrison, of No. 25, Manor-street, Clapham, and a volunteer in the 1st Surrey Rifles, for an act of cruelty to a dog under circumstances which have caused much attention.

Upon the summons being called, Mr. A. Jones, a solicitor and the complainant, rose and stated that his worship would remember that his application was against the defendant for wounding a dog by shooting when it was running about on Wandsworth-common with a lady and two children. There would be very little difficulty in the matter, as Mr. Kerrison had expressed his great sorrow for what happened, and had assured him that it was quite a mistake.

Under these circumstances he was ready to allow the case to drop, the defendant being willing to make an apology and to pay all the expenses. It was most important that a stop should be put to rifle volunteers using their fire-arms in public thoroughfares, as the most dangerous results were likely to occur. The dog in question was shot through the hind quarters, and was running about at the time close to his niece.

Mr INGHAM here inquired if the defendant was present.

Mr. Kerrison, a young gentleman, then stood up in front of the table.

Mr INGHAM then addressed him, nnd said he hoped that he saw what a dangerous practice it was. He had no doubt it was done thoughtlessly, but he ought to be more careful in future. The country was much obliged to those gentlemen for the zeal they had shown in forming themselves into rifle corps, but if they were not more cautions with their fire-arms thepublic would have to trust more to an invading enemy than to their friends.

A gentleman who appeared for the defendant expressed his thanks to the complainant and has worship for the manner in which they had acted in the case. He said that it was one of these unfortunate occurrences arising from the indiscretion of youth. The great fault rested with the officers in not having issued orders in the first instance against using the rifles except in ball practise or on parade. If an order had been issued to that effect the accident would not have happened. He hoped it would be a caution to the volunteers not to take out their rifles in that way.

Mr. INGHAM said, in the open country there would not be any danger, but in the metropolitan parishes, where persons were constantly passing to and fro, it was very dangerous to use fire-arms. He had, however, no doubt it was done in a thoughtless moment, and he therefore would allow the summons to be dismissed.

The defendant then left the court with his friends.

[Gale: Times]

April 9, 1856 — Death of a Lunatic

A patient's death at the Surrey Lunatic Asylum in Wandsworth prompts a national outcry over the treatment of such unfortunates.

65-year old Daniel Dolley, not a violent man but described as "excitable and foolish," had that morning struck Dr. Charles Snape, the resident Superintendant. Dolley landed a "good sharp blow" to the doctor's head with his fist before being subdued by three "keepers."

The angered Snape orders that the man be placed in a narrow shower-bath; "Pull the string, keep him in a half-an-hour." For 28 minutes, drenched by unheated waters, Dolley remains in the cubicle, less than two feet square, secured by an iron bar. Removed by an orderly, the poor man is dead within a quarter hour's time.

At a perfunctory inquest at "the dead house," Dr. Snape pressures the autopsy surgeon to conclude that death was due to a had heart.

The surgeon, however, surreptitiously removed Dolley's heart, which he then carried round to several London physicians, none of whom saw evidence of significant heart decay. The Commissioners in Lunacy soon charged Dr. Snape with "unlawfully causing the death of an aged lunatic."

With an unblemished record, Snape admitted he had never treated a patient like that before, but he had never been struck by a patient before either. He's also supported by several experts who testify to the efficacy of the shower-bath in calming unruly madmen. Investigators for the Commissioners computed that Dolley had been drenched by some 618 gallons of cold water. One doctor even spent nine minutes in the cramped bath, he called the experiment "quite disagreeable," conceding that the experience had been probably even worse for "an exciteable lunatic."

Although the charge was reduced to manslaughter, a grand jury refused to indict. The Times, though acknowledging the "universally asserted" benefits of the shower-bath, called for restraints on its use, "It would be extremely difficult to convince twelve jurymen, not selected from the inmates of Bedlam, that any human being could endure the rush of water from a shower bath of unusual severity for half-an-hour without imminent hazard of life."

[Tom Hughes, Victorian Calendar: Link.]

Dickens lives. Publicity image for "The 1840 — St George's Gardens" — a residential redevelopment of Springfield Hospital, the former Surrey County Pauper Lunatic Asylum.
(Click on image to enlarge)

Subscribers (to 14 April 1860) to the fund to save Wandsworth Common

The local target was £4000. If this was reached, the wealthy MP Henry Peak (connected to the families that owned Peak-Freen biscuits) would contribute £1000 — making £5000 in total. The money was needed if Earl Spencer's alleged rights over the Common were to be challenged in court.

(Click on image to enlarge)

London Evening Standard — Friday 15 April 1870

A young man named Sullings was yesterday brought before the police magistrate at Wandsworth, and charged, together with other persons, more than 300 in number, with breaking down the fence of a garden on Wandsworth Common, and destroying the trees and vegetables. This proceeding arose out of a movement to resist any further encroachments upon the common. The ground in question had not been enclosed till 1868, but the complainant alleged that he bought a right to it from Earl Spencer in 1836. Defendant was fined 40s., with £15, the amount of damage.

[BNA: Link.]

Samuel Sullings, aged about 20 or 21, normally a sawyer in Essex but at this time a local gardener, couldn't afford the fine, and he was sent to prison for six months — presumably the Wandsworth House of Correction.

Woolwich Gazette — Saturday 30 April 1870

A poor man is now suffering six months' imprisonment with hard labour for breaking down fences on Wandsworth Common, which obstructed the use of an old-established footpath.

[BNA: Link.]

15 April — The Nightingale, from Revd Edwin Wood's "An April Ramble"

(Click on image to enlarge)

15 April

If our ramble takes place after the 15th of the month we ought to hear the nightingale; provided, of course, we dwell in a part of the country which nightingales favour with their summer residence. It is quite a mistake to suppose that these birds only sing by night; for they sing at almost any hour of the 24, if only they are far enough removed from the dwellings of man.

I always challenge them to a competition by whistling a few soft notes, and then waiting for an answer. In a few seconds, at the most, this always comes: for the nightingale is very proud of his own vocal powers, and ever ready to enter the lists with a competitor. So we whistle and reply to one another, the bird and I, for a minute or two, and then the nightingale grows excited and comes a little nearer; and we carry on the duet until he comes nearer still, and finds out the trick that has been played upon him. And then, I regret to say, he gives vent to a perfect torrent of abuse, in tones which no one would ever have imagined could possibly have proceeded from a nightingale's throat.

Shakespeare tells us that the hen bird is the vocalist.

'The nightingale, if she should sing by night,
When every goose is cackling, would be thought
No better a musician than the wren.'

But here Shakespeare is wrong, for it is the cock only that sings; and his impassioned strains seem designed first to win the heart of his little brown lady-love, and then to cheer her as she patiently sits on her five olive-green eggs.

[The Church Monthly, 1892 [TW became vicar of St Mary Magdalene in 1902]

Salisbury and Winchester Journal — Saturday 16 April 1870

(Click on image to enlarge)

Cuckoos on Clapham and Wandsworth Commns

The Cuckoo. On Thursday morning a flight of cuckoos, which had emerged from their winter quarters located on Clapham and Wandsworth-commons. The appearance of these harbingers of spring in the south is this year earlier than usual; they continued to pour out their welcome notes for some time and then dispersed over the country. They are migratory birds, and although they breed during their sojourn in this country, they are seldom seen or heard after September, as they make their exit about that time to other and warmer climates.

[BNA: Link.]

South London Press — Saturday 23 April 1870

THE prevalence of bird-trappers on Wandsworth and Clapham Commons is a subject of frequent remark among inhabitants in those districts. Pursuing their favourite occupation of catching nightingales, in Clapham Park, the other day, several of them were pounced upon by a number of gardeners, and roughly used, after which the caged birds were set free.

[BNA: Link]

[Source: Link.]

People's Paper — Saturday 16 April 1853


The body of a fine young woman, named Lucy Upton, the daughter of respectable parents residing at Wandsworth Plain, has been found 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.

It appears that the unfortunate young girl, who is only eighteen years of age, 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. She seemed in her usual spirits, and her parents left her in the parlour, in which room she slept, washing her feet, previously to her going to bed.

They went up stairs and retired to rest, and, before they did so, the deceased was heard to lock her door. Nothing more was heard of her until the following morning, when her body was found lying in the water of the Black Sea, on Wandsworth Common. Her bonnet and shawl were discovered lying on the edge of the pond, and it is supposed that the deceased waited until her parents were asleep, and then unlocked her door and made her way straight to the common. The water in the pond is very shallow, and where the body was found lying it is only three feet.

[BNA: Link. Also e.g. Kentish Mercury, same day.

London Evening Standard — Wednesday 18 April 1838

On Monday evening a person named William Thorne, a compositor, was conveyed to St. Thomas's Hospital, having unfortunately broken both his legs, under the following circumstances: it appears that on Sunday night he was going across Wandsworth-common, when he thought he heard the shrieks of a female, at some distance, as if in distress; he immediately proceeded with all speed towards the spot, to afford assistance, in doing which he sprang from a bank which lay in his way, and not being aware of the height he had to jump, it being dark at the time, met with the dreadful accident. The poor fellow, we understand, is likely to live.

[BNA: Link]

Pall Mall Gazette — Monday 18 April 1881

Mass attacks on Salvation Army meetings on Wandsworth Common.

(Click on image to enlarge)

A youth named Walter Jackson was charged at Wandsworth police-court oa Saturday with behaving disorderly, and damaging a flag belonging to the Salvation Army. Charles Humphreys, a bookseller, living in Greenwich, said on Good Friday he and several other members of the Salvation Army went to Wandsworth-common to hold a meeting. A number of roughs interrupted them, and to avoid a disturbance they proceeded to march back again to the hall. The prisoner rushed at the banner, caught hold of the stick, and broke it.

A policeman said he saw the army hustled off the common by the roughs. In the Spanish-road matters were likely to become serious, as there were 500 and 600 persons. He had to rush in between them. He was alone.

Mr. Paget: You were alone between the two armies.

The constable further said that when he took hold of the prisoner there was a shower of stones and mud. He had a fair share of them.

Mr. Paget said it was a disgraceful business to all parties. The prisoner had no business to interfere, however foolish people welt to parade the streets in that way. He committed him to prison for seven days.

[BNA: Link]

The Salvation Army was still relatively new — founded 1865. This is a good example of the use of the Common for public gatherings — religious, political and so on. Notice the numbers — between 500 and 600 persons. Presumably this had brewed for some time. I wonder what happened later?

August 2021: there are a number of interesting articles on organised hostility towards the Salvation Army from the "Skeleton Army" acting throughout southern Britain at this time.
I have seen similar accounts of the break-up of Baptist gatherings, which eventually led to the building of e.g. the Chatham Rd Baptist Chapel [date?], in which the Spurgeons, father and sons (who lived on Nightingale Lane), were involved. Pamela Hansford Johnson describes similar scenes in Clapham in the 1930s.

Morning Herald (London) — Tuesday 18 April 1848

40 acres — near a railway — a "fine flowing sheet of water" ? Surely this is Fernside House!

See Fernside on the right, with its own lake fed by the Falcon Brook.
The map is from about 1871, by which time the railway was running, and a station (Wandsworth Common) had been built (so why is not shown?). The railway company was excavating gravel from behind the station, for track ballast, hence the lakes and pits.
(Click on image to enlarge)

WANDSWORTH COMMON, near the Railway.

To be SOLD, a noble RESIDENCE, with or without nearly 40 acres of land, beautifully situate, and enjoying very pleasing views.

The house is approached by an entrance lodge, and contains a splendid suite of apartments, numerous bed-chambers and dressing-rooms. It has just been completely repaired by the owner in a tasteful and very liberal manner, and is in the highest order.

The grounds and gardens are laid out with great taste, and the meadows, which slope from the house to a fine flowing sheet of water, are beautifully undulated and wooded, and intersected by extensive gravel walks.

The whole or part of the new and appropriate furniture may be had. Particulars may be had of Messrs. Brooks and Green, 28, Old Bond — street.

[BNA: Link.]

Morning Advertiser — Saturday 18 April 1818

BROUGHT on Saturday, April 11, 1815, a CHESTNUT GELDING, 15 hands high, aged, to the Widow Wallis, Wandsworth Common, supposed to have been stolen. The Man that brought it had but one eye, and was dressed in smock frock; is about 5 feet 5 inches high, and said he came from Colebrook. If not claimed within 14 days from the date hereof, will be dealt with according to Law.

Wandsworth, April 14, 1818.


[BNA: Link.]

Morning Advertiser — Thursday 22 April 1869

Two wheels good, four wheels bad

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Two-wheeled velocipedes, 1869
[Unknown source and location.]
(Click on image to enlarge)


Yesterday a race took place with the now fashionable recreation of velocipede riding level road on Wandsworth-common, between six amateur velocipedians, for a stake of £15. The distance contested was two miles, and two of the competitors, who travelled with two-wheel machines, were handicapped, and pat yarde below the starting point. The other four, who contended with the old-fashioned four-wheel velocipedes, started level.

The race was commenced sharp pace, Mr. Canton (four wheels) finishing the first mile in five minutes and 32 seconds, and commanding a good lead a spirited race was kept op, the riders of the two-wheel velocipedes working easier than their opponents; and when within half a mite of the winning point a French gentleman (M. de Ferne) a two-wheeler came from the rear, passed his opponents, and won by several lengths.

The last half-mile was covered in two minutes and 28 seconds, and the two miles accomplished by the winner in 10 minutes and 30 seconds.

[BNA: Link. Also e.g. South London Press — Saturday 24 April 1869.]

I wonder how these speeds might compare with a modern bicycle? Any cyclists out there prepared to provide some times?

The straight, level "two-mile" course must be our Trinity Road, which at that time stopped at North Side. But in fact the distance is a little less — a little over 1.8 miles.

Old Trinity Road (before the underpass was built down to Wandsworth Bridge).
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Presumably they started either at today's Tooting Bec Tube (the contemporary landmark was the Wheatsheaf pub, still on the corner there.) Or perhaps higher up, nearer Holy Trinity Church, when the straight road begins. The article seems to suggest it was slow-going to start with, before the riders picked up speed, so I suspect they started at the southern end and rode up the steepish hill before reaching the fairly level section across the Common.

Three- and four-wheeled velocipedes, 1869
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Morning Advertiser — Monday 23 April 1866

The Hope Tavern for sale.

"When the building operations now in progress in the neighbourhood are completed, and the the railway station which is to be placed immediately opposite is established, an extensive trade must be the result, which will stamp the Hope Tavern a very valuable and first-class property". The new Wandsworth Common Station opened in November 1869.

"The Hope" pub, at the junction of St James's Drive and Belle Vue, c.1905 — looking much as it does today.
More on the Hope and the rest of Bellevue here. I am grateful to Wendy Leahy for colorising the original black-and-white postcard. The colours are unlikely to be accurate, of course.
(Click on image to enlarge)

Valuable Freehold Property — Wandsworth-common

MESSRS McLaren, SON, and ROLFE have received instructions to submit for Sale by Public Auction, at the Mason's Hall, Masons-avenue, Basinghall-street, on the 3rd day of May next, at 1 o'clock (unless previously sold by private treaty) a valuable


known as the


conspicuously placed at the junction of two important thoroughfares on


The property consists of newly-erected establishment, upon scale both extensive and great completeness, combining in its appointments every facility for business and every domestic comfort of a home. As the construction but recently finished, the property at present stands without a spirit licence, although there can be no doubt, fairly judged, that it will granted upon application.

When the building operations now in progress in the neighbourhood are completed, and the railway station which is to be placed immediately opposite is established, an extensive trade must the result, which will stamp the Hope Tavern a very valuable and first-class property.

Cards to view of the Auctioneers. Particulars and conditions of sale of George Brown, Esq., Solicitor, 19, Paddington-green; at the Masons Hall; upon the premises; and at the Auction Offices, 119, Great Russell-street, Bloomsbury.

Wandsworth and Battersea District Times, 24 April 1880

This relatively informal pitch had a glorious past — the MCC played here in 1827 — and continued in use for many years — much to to the annoyance of some local people, such as Mrs Nixon, who around 1880 lived in the nearest house in Heathfield Cottages and was tired of retrieving cricket balls batted over her wall. She soon moved, but later a wire-mesh fence was erected, and residents of the Cottages were given one shilling a year in compensation.

The 1881 Census shows Frances Nixon as a 45-year-old widow of independent means, living with three daughters (20, 19, 16) and a widower brother (39). She was still there in 1883, mis-spelt as Mrs Nickson. But she'd gone by 1891.

This is also the ground on which the Wandsworth tradesmen played prior to the 1863 meeting with John Buckmaster at the County Arms to plot a defence of the Common.

Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle — Sunday 25 April 1852

Another cricket story, but this time of "single-wicket" sort (whatever that is — can someone explain?).

Three single wicket matches will be played Wandsworth Common to-morrow (Monday) between Messrs Wells and Brown. Messrs Becket and Cooley, and Messrs Salter and Becket, commencing at four o'clock.

[BNA: Link.]

So gar as I know, "single wicket cricket" can include players of all ages and abilities — hence they regularly play "single-wicket cricket" on The Archers. But it's never clear to me what's going on. Could somebody explain the rules? Who knows, it might be a nice sport to revive on the Common.

Morning Post — Monday 25 April 1836

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Wanted, by a Laundress in the country, a FAMILY'S WASHING. Care and punctuality will be duly attended to. A respectable reference can be given. An address, post paid, to M. V., Penn's Cottage, Wandsworth Common, will meet with immediate attention.

[BNA: Link.]

[Penn's Cottage was one of a small row of houses now called "Heathfield Gardens", on Heathfield Road. See Keith Bailey article on the development of this small enclave on the Common in the latest Wandsworth Historian.]

The Times — Wednesday 25 April 1866

Baby abandoned in a cabbage patch on Wandsworth Common

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At WANDSWORTH, a young woman, who gave the name of Catherine Leonard, and stated that she was without a home, was placed in the dock on a charge of wilfully abandoning her infant, whereby its life was endangered.

Inspector Usher, V division, stated that at 9 o'clock on Saturday evening he was on duty at the station, when a man named Richard Davis and his wife came in with a baby, between four and five weeks old, and informed him that they found it in a field, among some cabbages, on Wandsworth-common. The child was shivering, and appeared to require immediate attention. It was dressed in a frock and flannel. He immediately sent for a person to do something for the child, and he afterwards had it removed to the union workhouse.

He subsequently made inquiries which led to the apprehension of the prisoner, who admitted that the child belonged to her. She said destitution had caused her to leave the child on the common, and she was very sorry for what she had done. She further stated that she had been in Lambeth Union [i.e. the workhouse] for a week, and she left there on Friday morning, as she did not receive sufficient food [another article continues: "to support the baby"]. The prisoner said she left the workhouse on Saturday morning.

In reply to the Magistrate, the inspector stated that neither Davis nor his wife had attended.

Other evidence was given to the effect that the, prisoner, who was sent to the workhouse after her apprehension, stated to the nurse who gave up the child to her to suckle, that she left her baby on the path as she thought some person would pick it up.

[Inspector Usher said he believed the prisoner had been an inmate of a lunatic asylum.]

Mr. Ingram remanded her until Tuesday next ["to give full time for an enquiry"]. Inspector Usher wished to know whether the magistrate would send her back to the workhouse, where she would be perfectly secure.

Mr. Ingham thought it would not do the prisoner any harm to send her to prison in the usual way. <.p>

The prisoner was then removed to the cells.

[Source: Link]

Saint James's Chronicle — Saturday 25 April 1835

April 22, at Wandsworth, by the Rev. William Borrodaile, Vicar, the Rev. Henry Moseley, Professor of Natural Philosophy, in King's College, to Harriet, daughter of William Nottage, of Wandsworth Common, Esq.

[BNA: Link.]

Also, London Packet and New Lloyd's Evening Post — Monday 27 April 1835 [BNA: Link.]

Alas, I've run out of time to discuss the significance of this event for the history of Wandsworth Common. But I wanted to record it all the same and perhaps I can return to it soon. Among other things, I believe it explains why so many stones from the old old London Bridge (i.e. the medieval one)_ can be seen built into walls on Heathfield Road.

House on Heathfield Road constructed partly out of rubble from the medieval London Bridge
Photograph said to be c. 1950, but the Union Jack suggests 1953. (Photo by Collage.)
(Click on image to enlarge)

Wandsworth & Battersea District Times, March-April 1873

To pond or not to pond?

Throughout March and April 1873 a battle raged in local newspapers over the digging of a new stretch of ornamental water — the once-picturesque "Black Sea" having recently been filled in to make way for the building of Spencer Park. This was one of the first projects undertaken by the new democratically elected Conservators of the Common, who had taken over control in 1871.

Ponds c.1870.
Ponds were created informally (by the natural flooding of gravel and sand pits) and most were eventually filled in. The venerable "3-island pond", on "5 Houses" (Bolingbroke Grove) is prominent top right. Our modern "lake" is coming into being at this time, but it is tiny and as yet has no islands.
(Click on image to enlarge)

This is what we now call "the lake" (though a young me in the 1950s always knew it only as "The Pond"). Perhaps surprisingly to us today, most of the letters printed at the time are very much against creating a pond, even if it were to be financed entirely by voluntary subscription, with no cost to the rate-payers of Battersea and Wandsworth.

Its critics mocked those who did not live close to the Common saying "Oh, we like to see a piece of water when the sun shines on it". They ridiculed the "Lilliputian" islands. The critics listed numerous risks, from an extra burden on rate-payers and Common-keepers for maintenance and supervision, to pollution and lethal disease (not such an unreasonable caution given how recently cholera had swept through local communities).

And then there was its inevitable use for swimming and horseplay, when "grown lads... would be seen undressed or partially attired, to the disgust and annoyance of... every lady who passed by").

Hyde Park — a female uniformed park-keeper chases small boys.
There are several versions of this photograph over many years — which suggests the scene was staged.
(Click on image to enlarge)

But the Conservators had their way and the lake was dug (and enlarged later, to create the large island). I think most people would say that the lake has been a wonderful acquisition, for which generations have been grateful.

(Click on image to enlarge)

Vote — Saturday 30 April 1910


We want more street sellers for THE VOTE.

The sale of our paper is going up every week; the increase is steady, and anyone who buys it once wants it again. It is easy to sell and pleasant to read, so intending volunteers with a few hours to spare should apply for a pitch...

WE want volunteers for our open-air meetings. In Regent's Park every Sunday we hold enthusiastic gatherings and make many converts and strengthen the convictions of the indifferent. Presently we shall be holding others in Hyde Park and Kennington Park.

Special open-air meetings in Battersea Park, Wandsworth Common, Clapham Common, Brockwell Park, Victoria Park, Finsbury, Park, &c will be found announced under "Forthcoming Events,' which should be carefully studied each week.

[BNA: Link.]

Morning Advertiser — Monday 7 May 1849

Oswald Parsons — the first Wandsworth Common fence-breaker whose name is known to us. Also the first known appearance of the "Magna Charta", a horse-drawn wagon to be used as battering ram in the defence of Wandsworth Common.

More than twenty years before Samuel Sullings (above), but also in April (the attack took place on 30 April, but came to court a week later) the bricklayer Oswald Parsons is in court charged with having "unlawfully and maliciously committed damage and injury to and upon a certain dead wooden fence, the property of Mr. William Herring."

Herring lived in Ivy House — the one on the corner of St John's Hill and today's Vardens Road, not the Bevington's Ivy House on West Side (or the one on the Grove, now St Ann's Hill). (Crikey, It must have been hell being a postie in those days.)

The land in question was situated between the Wandsworth-road and Clapham-common-road, and on the day named in the summons the defendant was seen to come, accompanied by two other men, one carrying a new and another an iron bar. The defendant sawed through the bar of a gate which had been erected, and opened it. Defendant with the saw, and the man with the bar, then went earnestly to work, and made a clear way through, and after having done it, said if the fencing was again put up, they would again pull it down...he said he was maintaining his right of way through, and he should always maintain it through that place.

...there was a timber-carriage near the spot with an imitation piece of ordnance, with the words "Magna Charta" written on, and this... was to be used as a battering ram.

[BNA: Link.]

Note: Oswald Parsons is named as Oswald "Painter" in Mark Gorman, Saving the People's Forest — a study of the key role played by popular protest in the campaigns to preserve Epping Forest and other open spaces in and near London. However, Mr Paynter is in fact the magistrate, not the defendant.

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