The History of Wandsworth Common


"August, cold and dank and wet,

Brings more rain than any yet."

Flanders and Swann,
A Song of the Weather

Wandsworth Common viewed from the air

75 years ago this month

Aerial photograph of part of Wandsworth Common, 12 August 1947
On the left, Trinity Road, the Toast Rack, and the RVPA (though no Fitzhugh "skyscrapers" yet). Through the middle, the railway line between Wandsworth Common station and Clapham Junction, crossed by the Cat's Back Bridge. On the right, Bolingbroke Grove (and beyond it Northcote Road).
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This month's stories

and more...

South Western Star — Friday 16 August 1940

Air Raid Wardens demonstrate fire-fighting on the Scope...


A.R.P. [Air Raid Precautions] Demonstrations at Wandsworth Common

A crowd of several hundred people at Wandsworth Common on Friday evening watched an interesting and instructional demonstration of the most effective methods of dealing with incendiary bombs.

The demonstration was given by members of Wandsworth's A.R.P. service, and was held on that part of the common facing Burntwood-lane. A barn-like construction with an open front had been erected about three feet above the ground on wooden piles. It had a timber frame and corrugated iron sides and roof.

A.R.P. Warden, Royal Doulton Character jug
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The demonstrator first gave a lecture, in which he described the composition and working of an incendiary bomb. He said the bomb load of an aeroplane carrying incendiary bombs, which are light in weight, is about 1000.

Allowing for the number that would fall in open spaces in the suburbs of town like London, and the number that would hit gutterings, and fall into places where they could do little harm, it had been worked out that, roughly speaking, 83 out of every bomb-load would fall on houses or other buildings. Incendiary bombs, when dropped from the correct height, would penetrate most roofs and would probably stay on the top floor.


In some cases it would be the attic, hence the importance of clearing all rubbish and inflammable material from attics. The bomb threw off an intense heat, 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit [c.700° C.]. Furniture and other inflammable material spread the fire, and unless the bomb was properly dealt with there was a danger of adjoining property being involved.

The lecturer then demonstrated with the official Reading sand container and long handled shovel, and with a stirrup pump. He ignited an Incendiary bomb on the floor of the barn, and when it was burning fiercely (these bombs consist principally of magnesium) another A.R.P. man put two shovelfuls of sand around and on it, raked it on to the showel, deposited it in the remainder of the sand in the Reading container and carried it to where no further harm could be done.

The whole procedure took no more than a couple of minutes. showed what should be done if a bomb could be tackled before it had set its surroundings alight.


The stirrup pump demonstration was more spectacular. For this demonstration a quantity of old furniture, piled high with straw, was soaked with turpentine. In addition to the igniting of an incendiary bomb, the straw was set alight and a terrific blaze started.

(Click on image to enlarge)

The demonstrator entered the barn and crouching with his face only three or four inches from the floor, played a stream of water on the burning furniture. He had explained the necessity of keeping low on the floor. At that level the air was cooler and purer. It was also comparatively free from smoke. It he had stood uprignt the dense cloud of smoke coming from the burning straw would have suffocated him.

Not till he had sufficiently extinguished the furniture did he set about the bomb. For this he turned the fitting on the nozzle of the hose and obtained a fine spray. The ordinary stream of water should not be used for tackling the bomb.

Wills cigarette card: a stirrup hand pump in use
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To show why this is so he deliberately did what he should not have done. As soon as the heievy stream of water struck the burning bomb its flare increased and burning particles flew about the room. The spray quickly reduces the burning time of an incendiary bomb.

How the youngsters in the crowd cheered as the demonstrator crawled about the floor with hose nozzle held high. They would have watched this sort of thing for hours. It was far more exciting than the pictures.


When he had satisfied himself that there was no danger of further fire breaking out in the smouldering furuitake. the lecturer told the audience that his colleague, who had been pumping the water from fair-sized buckets, had used only one and a quarter buckets of water for the demonstration, which was over in a very short time. He said that in practice the A.R.P. service had never used more than two buckets of water to extinguish an incendiary bomb and fire of that character.

He also warned people who thought they would be able to connect their garden hose to the kitchen tap for the same purpose, instead of buying a stirrup pump.

He explained that the fire fighting services would be drawing heavily on the water main supply in the event of bombs being dropped. So the pressure from the home supply would be very low. In addition there was the possibility of mains being damaged because incendiary bombs were often dropped in conjunction with high explosive bombs.

The demonstration was repeated on Saturday and Monday evenings. There were large crowds of people who followed the demonstration with keen interest.

[BNA: Link]

[IWM: 8 objects used by air-raid wardens during the Blitz.]

Women welding stirrup pumps
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During World War II most of the Sports Field (a.k.a. the "Extension") and several areas nearby were given over to allotments (hundreds and hundreds of them).

Even the railway embankments were put to use — look closely either side of the Cat's Back Bridge. Food was scarce and strictly rationed, so self-help was considered a vital part of the war effort.

(Click on image to enlarge)

In October 1940, the Ministry of Agriculture announced a "Dig for Victory" campaign, with a massive increase in the number of allotments. But there were conflicts about the amount of space on the Common that should given over to allotments, or military and civil defence uses, since these would be lost to sport. Trench-shelters were cut, and once again sand and gravel were extracted from the Common — this time to fill sandbags.

August 1947: allotments cover most of the Sports Field (a.k.a. the Extension)
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South Western Star — Friday 25 October 1940


County Council's New Plans

The Minister of Agriculture is planning a new "Dig for Victory" campaign for 500,000 more allotments. At the same time there are potential allotment holders who are finding it difficult to get plots.

In one case a man who applied for an allotment on Wandsworth Common three months ago is still on the waiting list. An officer of the County Council has explained that all the plots available at Wandsworth Common were allocated last season and it had taken some time to set out new plots. They would soon, however, be available.

The People's Recreation

It was pointed out that, while there might appear to be land available, the allotment holders' claims must be weighed against the people's recreation needs. It is intended to open up several hundred more allotments in the this autumn. The chief problem is the use of much of the land for military or civil defence purposes. Trench shelters have been dug in many of the parks, and excavations have been made to fill sandbags.

The County Council are exploring other ways of meeting the need. It is possible, for instance, that playing fields, apart from those in the public parks, may be used for allotments.

[BNA: Link]

The campaign was so successful that by the middle of the war about 70 percent of food was home-grown.

Digging for Victory.
Early days: allotments on Clapham Common, 1940 (I'm still looking for photos of Wandsworth Common. Perhaps you have one?)
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A rather less desirable form of wartime "self-help" — more like "help yourself" — was the theft of fruit and veg from allotments. This probably wasn't common, but not unheard of:

South Western Star — Friday 31 August 1945

"Pilfered from allotments..."


Tomatoes and Cabbages

John George Bowring (69), no occupation, 38 St. John's Hill-grove (Battersea), was charged at South Western Magistrates' Court on Saturday with stealing two cabbages and 9lbs. of tomatoes, together worth about 14s., from allotments at Wandsworth Common.

P.C. Leonard said that at 8.45 a.m. on Friday he saw prisoner on one of the allotment gardens at Spencer Park, Wandsworth Common, where he pulled two cabbages. He then went to four other plots, from each of which he picked some tomatoes, putting some in his pocket and some in a shopping bag he was carrying.

At the fourth plot witness spoke to him while he had some tomatoes in his hands, and asked if that was his allotment. He replied that that and another plot were his.

Witness then said "Why have you been on the other allotments to pick produce?" and he replied "I haven't been on another allotment."

When charged at Lavender Hill Police, Station prisoner said "Not guilty." He had two cabbages and 9lbs. of tomatoes in his possession.


Prisoner: I didn't take anything from the other allotments. I just felt how firm they were.

Detective-sergeant Parrish said that when told he would be charged prisoner said "I don't think he saw me take them."

Prisoner had nothing more to say and Mr. Wilson found the charge proved.

Detective-sergeant Parrish said there were no convictions as far as the police could ascertain. Prisoner was suffering from diabetes and was attending hospital for treatment. During the past 20 years he had done no work apart from odd jobs and he lived on the rental of two flats which he owned. He also lived in his own house.

Mr. Wilson: This was a very mean theft. Were it not for your age and physical disabilities I should send you to prison. As it is you must pay a fine of £2 10s.

[BNA: Link]

Although much of the Common was needed for food-production, about half was left for sport and recreation — spot the bowling green and tennis courts, and open grassy areas for football and cricket on the Bolingbroke side.

After the war there were arguments for restoring the Common for sport, but the allotments continued in use until the early 1950s. Many local people had become expert gardeners and were deeply attached to their plots for food, exercise, fresh air and sociability.

South Western Star — Friday 5 August 1949

Hope for allotment holders

Tenants of L.C.C. allotments on Clapham Common, Garratt Green, and Wandsworth Common, whose annual tenancies are not to be renewed because of the urgent need of their land for sports purposes, now have hope that they may not be compelled to quit their allotments for some considerable time.

The Allotments Committee of Wandsworth Borough Council has written to the L.C.C. to request that holders may be allowed to remain in occupation until development of the sites for sports purposes has actually commenced.

[BNA: Link]


The Common was also used to house people whose homes had been destroyed during the war — notice, below, a double row of prefabs ("prefabricated houses") along Bellevue and Bolingbroke Grove, and others near Spencer Park, and in front of St Mark's on Battersea Rise.

Prefabs on and around the Common, e. 1950s
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For several years I looked around for photographs of prefabs on the Common, but it seemed there were none to be found. But how wrong I was. An appeal through word-of-mouth and local press yielded some wonderful images and memories. Here are two images that were included in The Wandsworth Common Story, with maps of their location:

Linda and Carol Bird outside the family prefab, 99 Bolingbroke Bungalows c. 1953
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Notice the parallel rows, as see in the photograph.
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Christine Brown with her family in front of their prefab, 69 Spencer Park c. 1954
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The prefabs were demolished in the mid-1950s, highly-prized by their inhabitants and in spite of a desperate housing shortage across London. There were questions in the House about the squandering of a scarce resource (Hansard, 22 May 1957, but there was no stay of execution. The bungalows were evacuated but left for a while in an increasingly dilapidated, vandalised state. A fence was erected (at great expense), but it couldn't stop children exploring them.

West London Observer, 12 October 1956
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As local resident Cathy Rowntree recalls,

When we were at Junior school in the fifties, my [future] husband and I played in the remains of the prefabs as they were being demolished... We used to come away with our bare arms itching with fibreglass, and I dread to think how much asbestos we breathed in!

Lots more to be said about prefabs, but more another time.

A few hot weather stories...

As I write, we're just getting over a period of extreme temperatures — including on 19 July more than 40° C in the shade, the highest ever recorded in England. A century or so ago, much lower temperatures were considered remarkable.

On 26 August 1893, the Driffield Times reported that on Wandsworth Common, London, at one o'clock on the previous Wednesday, the thermometer registered 120 ° Fahrenheit (49° C) in the sun and 94 (34° C) in the shade.

This must have seemed exceptionally high at the time — why else would a newspaper published in a market town in the East Riding of Yorkshire report a temperature from suburban London?

South Western Star — Friday 15 August 1919


Battersea and the parts adjacent have suffered from sunstroke this week. The district has sweltered and has done very little else. Everybody seemed to agree that the heat would not permit of more work bring done than was absolutely necessary. What has been done has been done leisurely, if not well.

Clothing was worn for appearance sake, but not more of it than could be helped, except by those very old-fashioned folk who adhere to the belief that what will keep out the cold will keep out the heat. This explains why now and then one met a man with his winter overcoat on. He was wrapped up to keep himself cool — just as ice is wrapped in blankets.

Children, freed from the oppressive decorum which is associated with the schools. sauntered along bare-footed and bare-headed. A single garment, and that not always a whole one, sufficed.

Postcard, "Cooling their tootsies", c.1910 (Card House 4317).
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All the week the rush for the ponds on the commons has been great. Convention requires that juvenile bathers and plungers shall wait until 8 p.m., but this convention has been burnt up. Little boys luxuriate in the cool waters as early as 10 a.m., and their sisters stand on the bank, either pretending not to be there or watching for the common-keeper.

Contrary to expectations — for we delight to anticipate the worst — Wednesday was less oppressively hot than Tuesday, there being a fresher breeze. Several cases of prostration have occurred...

[BNA: Link]

A glorious August Bank Holiday Monday on Wandsworth Common...

South Western Star — Friday 09 August 1935

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Picnic Time

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...Wandsworth Common, one of Battersea's finest open spaces, drew large crowds. Picnic parties were very numerous. From four o'clock till six the common was dotted with family groups sitting in semi-circles round the festive board. Of course there wasn't any board but that is the proper way to put it. Festive board is figurative language for a newspaper spread on the grass and loaded with nice things for tea. Thermoses and milk bottles, bread and butter — the butter laid extra thick.

"Mum," we heard a little girl say, "you've had four pieces and I've only had two."

There were cakes also and jam — anybody could see it smeared all over the children's lips, but who expects part manners at a picnic?

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It was a hot job taking tea. Father took off his coat, and often his waistcoat as well. Mother had to look nice — "You don't know who you're going to meet when you're out." As likely as not "her upstairs" or that woman next door is flaunting herself about. Besides which mother had to keep the cups filled and to see that the children did not do altogether as they pleased. Happy little tea parties they were. Some people teaed on a high scale. They annexed a whole semi-circle of chairs (tuppence a chair, which we consider waste of money).

On some of these chairs they reclined, the ladles reclining very gracefully, especially if they had neat ankles. Other chalks were made to do duty as tables and passers-by could see there were paste sandwiches as well as cakes.

Elderly folk had little tea parties by themselves in a nook formed of furze and bramble bushes or under a clump of trees.

"You seem to be enjoying yourselves." we remarked to the head of the table (figurative language again) at one of these parties.

"Well it's very nice here," was the reply, and the entire company smiled a smile as sweet as the cup of tea into which we had seen three lumps of sugar stirred.

"A good hot of tea must be very refreshing on an afternoon like this."

The head of the table instantly became frigid. She hastened to throw a newspaper over the thermos, and she said but one word, an icy "Yes". A woman of experience, she suspected that we were loafing round to see what we could pick up, as, in a sense, we were. But we should never pick up a cup of tea; we don't drink anything but hot water, and we don't eat picnic cakes.

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Having had tea the people rose up to play. Some played strenuously — cricket. rounders, and other ball games, in one of which the young men had to run after the young ladies. Some there were who played from a sense of duty to themselves. There's nothing like it for slimming," said a grey old gentleman, who was batting a ball to his wife. Neither the gentleman nor his wife were whjat you would call fat — perhaps they been slimming for years.

In family cricket matches mother took her turn at the wicket, and the children dutifully did their utmost to get her out, and father, without hat, coat, or waistcoat, encouraged them.

Dollies and dogs shared in the treats and were not forgotten at tea-time. Fortune smiled unexpectedly on one batch of children. They came running to their parents, saying. "Mum, we've found a ball." Searching of heart followed. Was it lawful to retain the ball?

We could have told the party that anything found on the commons or in the park is the property of the London County Council until such time as it can be restored to its lawful owner. It was, however, none of our business. Neither was it our ball.

Mother, being something of a casuist, as all women are, decided that her children might play with the ball and that if nobody claimed it they might assume it was theirs. "People shouldn't their things about on a day like this, " she said. Father rather discreetly concentrated on his pipe.

Great activity on the bowling green, where opposing teams, with faces like those of alleged statesmen at Geneva, performed mighty deeds. Most of them were in correct costume; they had thrown off coat and vest, and they evidenced a catholic taste in braces: no bits of string for them; no missing buttons.

Cricket matches were also indulged in, languidly, because of the heat and many lady spectators knitted and kept count of their stitches rather than of the score.

Children did not find it too hot for acrobatics — for standing on their heads and walking on their hands. Such exercises make them grow up lithe and graceful.

Next to the tea house, with its ice-cream, the most popular institution was the drinking fountain, which was always surrounded by a crowd of damp and thirsty children.

[BNA: Link]

Such a shame about the poor quality of the photos in this online BNA version. But who knows, I may find another copy eventually.

"So-called cricket pitches..."

In August 1901, after a long dry period during which South London had been like "Hell with the lid off" (to use Rudyard Kipling's expression), the rains eventually came, making "the turf as soft as newly-made putty".

All games were abandoned, so the Press's cricket correspondent needed something else to write about. He chose to fulminate against "the condition of the various cricket pitches on our local commons and parks", including Wandsworth Common:

South London Press — Saturday 3 August 1901

...Frequently I have traversed these so-called cricket-pitches, and have been almost startled with the disgraceful state in which they are kept. I refer particularly to those in Dulwich Park, on Clapham Common, Brockwell Park, and Wandsworth Common.

During the recent hot weather ground has been positively dangerous to play on. You can't call them cricket pitches at all. There is no attempt to cultivate them, they are never watered except by a rainfall, heavy rolling is almost an unheard-of thing, while the men in charge are scarcely the kind who understand what it is to nurse the grass and prepare it for the game. The soil of the ground has to be specially studied, and the turf properly cared for and encouraged...

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It is astonishing that accidents are not of frequent occurrence on such rough-and-ready pitches. A split head, a black eye, a broken nose, shattered teeth, or a blow in the ribs are the most likely things to happen on L.C.C. pitches.

Dear me! how poor senior and junior cricketers must suffer! and what a paradise it must surely be when they play upon a decently-rolled, plumb wicket!

Personally, I have had painful experience of L.C.C. wickets, but never again, thank you. If the proper men are employed, it is quite possible for the pitches to be licked into better condition; but an ordinary gardening man knows little or nothing about the secrets of "turf polish, "' unless he is conversant with cricket and its requirements.

What is chiefly desired in the hot weather is heavy watering and rolling. I am certain the players themselves who have to play on our commons would gladly subscribe a penny or twopence towards a Water and Rolling Fund, if the L.C.C. would only adopt the practice.

I cannot think that the Sports Committee of the L.C.C. know much about cricket, to allow such wickets to be prepared. To transfer a cricketer used to true wickets on to a L.C.C. one would be almost asking him to purposely maim himself for life.

[BNA: Link]

A few more cricket stories, then I'll move on ....

South London Press — Saturday 11 August 1866

A cricket match between a one-armed and a one-legged man is announced for Monday, on Wandsworth-common. The opponents are to be "Randall, the Barber," and "W. Cook, of the East-end," who compete for £1 a side.

[BNA: Link]

Sporting Gazette — Saturday 25 August 1866

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Played at Wandsworth Common on the 21st last, the bakers being victorious by 71 runs.

George Lohmann — one of the greatest bowlers of all time

Behold George Lohmann, the prodigious cricketer: "All his early practice was had on Wandsworth Common, and, in fact, the whole of his cricket until he was fifteen or sixteen years of age was learned on the Common..."

George Lohmann photographed in 1895.
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Cricket — Thursday 27 August 1885


A South Londoner, himself, by every association, to South London belongs the credit solely and wholly of the crioket training of the young professional who has done such good service for Surrey, with bat as well as ball, during the last two seasons.

Born in 1865, on June 2, Lohmann first saw the light at a period of Surrey cricket when Jupp and Tom Humphrey had just made their reputations as two of the best batsmen of the day.

All his early practice was had on Wandsworth Common, and, in fact, the whole of his cricket until he was fifteen or sixteen years of age was learned on the Common. A member of the Church Institute Club which played there, it was with it that he first showed any signs of ability as a cricketer, and for three successive seasons (1876-77-78) he won both the average bat and ball given for the most successful batsman and bowler of that society ...

This appreciation was published fairly early in George Lohmann's career. He went on to great things.

According to his (very full) entry in Wikipedia,

George Alfred Lohmann (2 June 1865 — 1 December 1901) was... one of the greatest bowlers of all time. Statistically, he holds the lowest lifetime Test bowling average among bowlers with more than fifteen wickets and he has the second highest peak rating for a bowler in the ICC ratings. He also holds the record for the lowest strike rate (balls bowled between each wicket taken) in all Test history...

After the 1892 season had ended, a dreadful shock came when it was announced that Lohmann had contracted tuberculosis. In an effort to improve his health, Lohmann sailed during the 1892/1893 winter to Cape Town...

Lohmann did come back to England in 1901 to manage the second South African touring team (and the first whose matches were recognised as first-class). However, his health was clearly never going to recover completely, and even after returning to Cape Town with the onset of autumn in England, Lohmann's condition only became more critical.

On 1 December 1901, the tuberculosis he had fought against for nine years finally claimed his life at age 36."

[Wikipedia: George Lohmann.]

Punch, 6 August 1913

"Revolt in Upper Tooting..."

"Stamping out revolt in Upper Tooting"
Mother (to daughter with yearnings for the higher life),

"Use what arguments you like, child; no tango-teas shall be given in this drawing-room".
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Morning Advertiser — Tuesday 11 August 1863

Revolt on Bolingbroke Grove...



Cecilia Utley, stout, able-bodied young woman, with her face and arms much sun-burnt, who was dressed in workhouse clothing, was placed in the dock before Mr. Dayman to answer two charges.

Police-constable Lane, 128 V, said about nine o'clock on Saturday night he was on duty in Five-house-lane [soon to be renamed Bolingbroke Grove], Wandsworth-common, when he saw the prisoner, who was drunk, and using obscene language to females as they passed. He persuaded her to away, but she refused, and last he was compelled take her into custody.

He then had a difficulty to take her to the station. She told him that if took her it should be without any clothes.

He obtained the use of a cart, into which she was placed, and she then divested herself of every particle of clothing, and tore them to pieces. He was compelled to drag the cart, with assistance, and the prisoner in a state of nudity, to the station, distance of three miles. During the way she was so violent that he was obliged to tie her hands.

The constable further stated that the prisoner had been convicted seven or eight times since Christmas.

Inspector Abrook informed his worship that the prisoner had only been liberated a few days from the Wandsworth House of Correction [i.e Wandsworth Prison, which had a separate female building at this time] after imprisonment of two months.

George Hall, coachman to Mr. Lambert, of Five-house-lane, said the prisoner was using obscene language about five yards from their gate. He asked her to get up and go away, but she refused, and going to pull her away, she repeated the disgusting language, and kicked him two or three times in a dangerous part of his body.

The prisoner, on being asked whether she had any questions to put the witnesses, commenced laughing and replied, "I will say nothing. I had better leave it alone."

Mr. Dayman told her that she appeared not to have taken warning by the previous convictions. He must now make the punishment more severe. He sentenced her to be imprisoned for two months with hard labour for the assault, and at the expiration of that time ordered her to find one surety for her good behaviour for six months.

The prisoner said, "Thank you, Sir," and left the court quietly, much to the surprise of the officers.

[BNA: Link]

South London Press — Saturday 31 August 1889

Demonstration of laundresses on Wandsworth Common


Towards the end of last year society, the Amalgamated Society of Laundresses, was started in Wandsworth, with a twofold object viz., to seek a reduction of the present hours of labour, and to obtain increased pay.

The society, guided by Sarah Barber as secretary, has made considerable progress, and on Sunday afternoon mass meeting was held on Wandsworth Common.

The members and their friends mustered in large numbers, and, headed by a couple of bands and their banner, paraded the streets of Battersea and Wandsworth.

Upon arriving at Wandsworth Common the speakers mounted a cart, and the proceedings commenced. Mr. M'Cord took the chair, and addressed the large assemblage. His remarks were received with cheers. He said that trade unions were the only way in which employees could make known to masters their needs.

Laundresses toiled from morning to evening, and deserved a higher wage. He admonished them to work day and night till they obtained their emancipation.

Mr. Daffey, the next speaker, narrated to those present the success of the agitation amongst gas workers. He was a stoker in the employ of a gas company, and was proud his body had secured their demands. He admonished the laundresses to be determined and combined, and then they would meet with success.

Mr. John Ward, the Socialist candidate for the borough of Wandsworth, moved the following resolution: "That this meeting having heard the objects of this society is of opinion that it is their duty do their utmost to assist the society, and to sweep the evils they complained of into oblivion."

The resolution was carried with enthusiasm.

[BNA: Link]

Pall Mall Gazette — Wednesday 28 August 1901

Two actors fight a duel over the reputation of a lady...

[T]wo London actors have just fought a duel, over the reputation of a lady...

The lady's champion challenged the other gentleman to a set-to with nature's weapons, and the meeting took place on Wandsworth Common, resulting in the complete discomfiture of the duellist who had made the defamatory charge.

That may not be a strictly legal way of settling a quarrel, but it is English, and manly, and eminently calculated, if not to prove the rights and wrongs of the case, at least to show that neither combatant is afraid to take the risk of a sound hiding...

[BNA: Link]

And finally, some August animal stories...

Adder (Vipera berus) on Bell Heather (Erica cinerea).
This photo was not taken on Wandsworth Common, though a century or so ago it might have been. I wonder when the last adder was seen on Wandsworth Common? Or, for that matter, any species of heather (Erica or Calluna? I'm fairly sure I remember heather on the Scope in the 1950s. (Or do I?) Is there still some? Must ask Roy Vickery.
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Globe — Monday 10 August 1891

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On Saturday a consultation was held St. Thomas's Hospital with reference to a boy named Minnion, aged 11, residing at 22, Rushill-road, Lavender-hill, who was bitten by a snake on Wandsworth Common.

The snake has been captured, and is now in the hospital.

[BNA: Link]

What? The snake is now in hospital? Yes.

Evening News (London) — Monday 10 August 1891

One is reminded of Goldsmith's mad dog by the account of proceedings in the case of a boy bitten by a snake on Wandsworth Common. On Saturday, we are told, "a consultation was held at St. Thomas's Hospital with reference to the boy; the snake is at the hospital." Goldsmith's hero, it will be remembered, "recovered of the bite; the dog it was that died." The Wandsworth snake is already in hospital.

[BNA: Link]

Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle — Saturday 19 August 1871

A race between Davison's "Legs" v Palmer's "Fly" — along Trinity Road?

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The match between T. Davison's black and white dog Legs, 43lb weight, and W. Palmer's white and bitch Fly, 34 1/2lb (both of Battersea), to run the best two out of three races at 250 yards, for £5 a side, was satisfactorily decided on a road near the Model Prison, Wandsworth Common, Monday evening last.

Great interest was manifested in the result by mime roua spectators who hod journeyed from town for the express purpose of seeing this, to them, novel kind of sport, for we believe it is the second of the kind that has taken place in the metropolis, and we are pleased to state that everything passed off in a quiet and agreeable manner.

Fly was the favourite, but speculation was not very brisk.

The owners of the animals acted as runners up, and incited the dogs with a rabbit and pigeon respectively, and by a stipulation in the articles had to be over the winning mark before the pistol was fired; in fact, the match was carried out in a precisely similar manner to those in the North.

— Heat 1: They broke away to good start, and Legs made all the running until three yards from home, when Fly shot in front, and won, amidst much excitement, by half a yard. Time, 14 4/5 sec.

— Heat 2: Another level start was effected, and a good race ensued for half the distance, when Fly drew in front, and led until a dozen yards from the finish, when she pulled and Legs won by a yard and a half. Time, 16 sec.

— Final heat: Legs got a shade the best of the start, and kept in front for 50 yards, when Fly drew past, and won by two yards.

Mr D. Broad was starter, and Mr H. Woodstock referee.

[BNA: Link]

The last rabbit on Wandsworth Common?

For more about competitive rabbit-coursing with fox terriers on Wandsworth Common, see Chronicles (March 2022).
(Click on image to enlarge)

I assume rabbits once flourished on the Common's sandy soils, and that from time immemorial local "commoners" had snared, trapped or hunted them with dogs for food and fur. I've found references to shooting rabbits on Wimbledon Common (for example in October 1863), but none for Wandsworth Common (yet).

Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit was created for a sick child (Noel Moore) living on Baskerville Road (at no.20), whose windows look over the Common.
(Click on image to enlarge)

But when did the rabbits disappear from the Common? Here's a hint that they were still present (though in vanishingly small numbers) as late as 1930:

South Western Star — Friday 29 August 1930

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has sent us a circular in which humane methods for the snaring of rabbits are advocated.

Rabbits do not swarm prolifically in the Battersea area. There are a few in the park, and credulous persons have reported that a wild rabbit has now and then scared them from Wandsworth Common. The society, therefore, has no data for assuming that Battersea people make a hobby of laying snares for rabbits.

There is the possibility that local residents, in whom the urge of primitive instincts are strong, go far afield on cycle, 'bus, car or train, and that they may not be too proud to pick up a rabbit if they can lay hold of one by the ears.

In times past, expert poachers have hailed from Battersea. Should any of their spiritual descendants be with us we hope they will take their pleasure and their ground game humanely. A humane snare for rabbits will be forwarded to any reader who cares to send two penny stamps to the society's offices.

[BNA: Link]

Rabbit, from Dwellers (1913), by Canon Theodore Wood, vicar of St Mary Magdalene, Wandsworth Common. Illustration by F.M.B. Blaikie,
For more about the Revd Wood, see the Chronicles for December 2021
(Click on image to enlarge)

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