New Wandsworth Station closes after 11 years.
The station was opened by the West End of London and Crystal Palace Railway on the 29 March 1858 when the railway extended its line from Wandsworth to Pimlico [PB: The station was actually opposite Pimlico, on the other side of the Thames in Battersea]. It closed on 1 November 1869, six years after Clapham Junction had opened a short distance to the north and was replaced by Wandsworth Common station.
The station was close to the London and South Western Railway's Clapham Common station located on a separate line, with both stations being open between 1858 and 1863.
[Wikipedia: New Wandsworth Station]
For a few years, residents described their leafy hill-top locale as "New Wandsworth" (to distinguish it from the old town straddling the Wandle, a mile to the west), but the name did not endure.
Cricket — Wandsworth Gentlemen triumph against the MCC on Wandsworth Common, "with not a wicket down".
Last month, I noted that a match between "Eleven of the Players of the Parish of Mary-la-bonne and Eleven of Wandsworth" at the Lord's Ground, St John's Wood, was "delayed in consequence of the weather". When the match began, on Monday 27th October, "the day was far from propitious":
The ground was in an exceedingly miserable state from the quantity of rain that had fallen, and it was regretted that the match had at all commenced, the slippery and swampy condition of the turf rendering it extremely toilsome and unpleasant, both to the batters and fieldsmen, more particularly to the latter.
[Note by the way the terms "fieldsmen" but also "batters", not batsmen — might this be significant for current discussions about de-gendering sports?]
Wandsworth was soon all out for just 63 runs (Mr Potter the top scorer with 21), a total nearly reached by their opponents without loss of wicket — "consequently the game was entirely in the hands of the Mary-la-Bonne Players".
But then a miracle occurred — a downpour:
At the above state of the game a heavy shower of rain came on, which compelled the players to seek shelter in the Pavilion; and, owing to the continuance of the shower, the match was not again proceeded with. The science and thorough knowledge of the game, was manifest on the part of the Wandsworth Players; would appear as if those of Mary-la-bonne were invincible, they not having been once defeated throughout the season."
Frustrated, a proposal was made to engage in a "single wicket match", to be played on Wandsworth Common "for 20l" [i.e. £20]. These smaller scale challenges were very popular in the early nineteenth century, then fell out of fashion (at least until the Archers on Radio 4 took them up again as a knock-out competition).
[There is a Wikipedia page devoted to the Single Wicket Cricket, but I still don't really get how the game was played. Perhaps someone could explain?]
When the players convened on Wandsworth Common, they had two matches — one with two batters on each side, the other with four. Wandsworth won both games, the latter "with not a wicket down".
This match being concluded, the Players retired from the field, and repaired to the house of Mr Gooding, where the evening was spent with the greatest hilarity."
For all you sports fans out there, I've posted full match reports.
So who were these keen (and affluent) Wandsworth cricketers, Mr Gooding and Mr Potter?
Gooding is described in the newspaper report as "the worthy host of The Antelope" — a public house on Wandsworth High Street. There is some info. about this pub (though only post-1855) on PubWiki — Antelope Inn, 34 High Street, Wandsworth SW18. [It was still there in 1921 but I assume it closed not long after?]
I am especially interested in "Mr Potter", Wandsworth's top scorer. Is he the Potter who lived near today's Heathfield Road — who, having benefited in the 1830s when the railway line clipped the end of his garden and he was handsomely compensated, subsequently sold all his land to the Surrey Justices of the Peace to build Wandsworth Prison in the late 1840s?
Notice that game itself is only a fraction of the fun — clearly food and drink are taken to excess, and large amounts of money change hands (gambling was more or less universal in mid-century sport). This match is for twenty sovereigns.
A sovereign was a solid gold coin (22 carat) with a nominal value of £1. Since £20 was roughly a labourer's annual income, it seems rather a lot of money to hazard on a game. (Incidentally, this gold coin is now very rare, and would sell today for around £37,000. So what would twenty be worth?)
Where was the match played?
It is likely that the contest took place on the area of Common between Heathfield Cottages an today's Trinity Road, since this fits the information given — this site is near the Antelope, on the Common etc. It is certainly the field most regularly used later in the century, and early in the next, for which we have e.g. photographic evidence. And besides, perhaps even the name "Heathfield" suggests it?
Marked here by PB on a later OS map [late 1860s?]
I have a number of references to the making and remaking of this field by local people, and the high value they therefore placed on it. This became acute when it was heard that Earl Spencer might sell the Common, which meant of course that their cricket ground would be lost to them — hence John Buckmaster's successful appeal to cricketers at the County Arms in September 1863 (mentioned in Chronicles for September).
"They hate trees and everything that is beautiful" — John Buckmaster.
Wandsworth Common defender John Buckmaster, called to give evidence before a Parliamentary Select Committee, expresses "very decided" views about how to improve our area:
"Intense ugliness is the characteristic of almost everything done and sanctioned by the local committee and district board." He complains that in his parish there are about 30 railway bridges over roads. Most of these bridges, he says, have been approved by the district board, and exceedingly ugly they are. Speaking of the bridges, he says — "They are of all conceivable shapes, widths, and forms, with awkward recesses for all kinds of nuisances."
Mr. Buckmaster has tried to hide the blemishes of architecture. He states — "I have suggested that ivy, wisteria, clematis, virginia creepers, or trees, should be grown over or in front of these unsightly acres of brickwork, which would cost very little; but the board such an idea with contempt.
"They hate trees, and everything that is beautiful."
You can see the scale of the problem on this map of railway lines in Battersea (the "Battersea Tangle"):
Wandsworth Common (not marked), is bottom left — notice "New Wandsworth Station", on Battersea Rise.
Wandsworth Common is about one hundred feet above the level of the Thames, so the tracks are sunk in cuttings. These chasms carve up the Common, but the're comparatively discrete, and in time may become marvellously green and wooded — even providing some environmental benefits. Remember local poet Edward Thomas's "unseen foxes" of the 1880s:
A railway ran across the Common in a deep bushy cutting, and this I supposed to be a natural valley and had somehow peopled it with unseen foxes. The long mounds of earth now overgrown with grass and gorse heaped up at my side of the cutting from which they had been taken were 'hills' to us..."
Arthur Rackham was born in Vauxhall, but moved to Wandsworth c.1884 and spent his later teens here. His new home was 3 St Ann's Park Road (off Allfarthing Lane, only a few hundred yards from the Common). He is known to have sketched on Wandsworth and Wimbledon Commons — and I think I can see the influence of Wandsworth Common in his later artwork (and also Rackham's hand in some as yet unattributed studies), but so few early pieces survive it's hard to prove one way or the other. Does anybody know of any early images?
But most of Battersea was less fortunate. Low-lying, and wet, with numerous routes radiating to and from London, the terrain meant tracks had to be elevated above roads and houses. As a result, there are embankments, innumerable bridges, and miles of railway arches beneath viaducts.
I wonder how many bricks it took to build Battersea? And where did they all came from? Bricks are heavy and expensive to transport. Until the end of the nineteenth century most buildings were constructed from bricks that were made less than 5km away (and typically much closer still). Presumably most were locally sourced. Government reports in the mid-century describe Battersea as having "almost inexhaustible" quantities of brick clay.
The marching army of builders carry a banner referring, for obvious reasons, to "Brixton", but the location could just as easily have been Battersea. Notice, in the centre, Westminster Abbey and the (old) Houses of Parliament. Holes are dug, trees are felled, and countless kilns spew out bricks onto the beleaguered fields — farms and animals are fleeing at the right. The pathological spread of the Great Wen, as William Cobbett called London at this time, was inexorable.
This has got me thinking. So expect some more on Battersea bricks (and a closer look at Cruikshank's stupendous image), in the nearish future.
Strange visitor shot on Wandsworth Common
A STRANGE VISITOR
On Monday, one of those rare birds, the bittern, was shot on Wandsworth Common.
Is it not remarkable that a radical newspaper, published in the north of England, should comment on the death of a bird on a London common? Any ideas why they would they do so?
20 years later [30 December 1865], according to newspaper reports, two boys shot a Bustard on the Common. Given that the Great Bustard became nationally extinct when the last bird was shot in 1832, it seems highly unlikely it was one of these. But if not, what was it?
I asked my bird-enthusiast friend John Jackson for his thoughts. He speculated that it might have been a rare vagrant Hubara or a McQueen's Bustard ("which in the C19 were even seen in the UK during so-called irruptions from their homes in the Middle East and Central Asia"), or perhaps "a Little Bustard, another occasional visitor to our shores." Or was it in fact a mis-named Bittern?
Given our local young men's enthusiasm for killing strangers, it's not surprising they haven't been seen much since.
And it wasn't just "strange visitors" who faced summary execution by boys and young men on Wandsworth Common.
Guns were explicitly banned in the Bye-Laws after the 1871 Act, but may have been unremarkable earlier in the century. There were competitions on local Commons to shoot pigeons and sparrows — I assume the birds were caged and released in front of the guns in much the same way that clay-pigeon-shooting is conducted now. Except that the target was alive, not a clay disc.
I have yet to see a specific reference for such sport on Wandsworth Common, but here is an advert for an event on Garrett Lane in 1850:
AT THE PLOUGH, Garret Lane, Wandsworth, on Thursday last, Mr. D of Rotherhithe and Mr Chance shot at 25 sparrows each, for £10; Mr D. won by 1 bird, killing 22 in first-rate style. — On Thursday next Mr Toby and a gentleman shoot at 25 birds each, for £10. Other matches will be shot; to commence at two o'clock".
A soldier shoots a pet dog on Wandsworth Common, then flees.
It wasn't only birds that were shot.
In March 1860 a pet dog was shot by a soldier with the Surrey Rifles, a newly formed volunteer unit, apparently using it for target practice. The family who owned the dog were walking along the Avenue across the Common when the shooting occurred.
The complainant, a local solicitor, wrote to The Times:
This day, at about half-past 3 p.m., I was walking on Wandsworth-common with my sister and some of my children. Four persons, dressed in the uniform of a rifle corps, were practising on the common; one of them aimed at and shot a very handsome dog belonging to my sister; one of my little girls was close to the dog at the time.
These four "gallant defenders" of the nation immediately ran away, leaving us in great distress at the moans of our poor dog, to seek aid from a couple of workmen who presently came in sight, and who showed no lack of sympathy with the victim, nor of indignation against those whom they scrupled not to call cowards.
This volunteer regiment was founded in 1859, apparently "after an invasion threat" (by the French, of course — so recently our "gallant allies" in the Crimean War). The number of local companies increased rapidly, with groups in e.g. Camberwell, Peckham, Clapham, Putney, Richmond.
[What is it with soldiers and birds and feathers? Which birds would have provided those big dangly plumes? Can they really have been from ostriches?]
[Ironically, the threat of invasion may have played a part in conserving Wimbledon Common — there was a clear need for somewhere spacious and remote enough for young men to shoot without risking others, and Earl Spencer was himself very keen to support the volunteers. Indeed, Wandsworth Common may have benefited too — something I hope to write about later in the month.]
On 22 May 1894 John Ingram, a 32-year-old gravedigger in Putney Vale cemetery (opened 1891), was killed by a stray bullet from the rifle range on Wimbledon Common. According to one website, he is buried yards from where he was shot, and left a pregnant wife and a young daughter. The site also says that "Every May 22 local resident John Cooper lays flowers on the man's grave." The rifle range was closed and shooting moved to Bisley, in Surrey.
A note about the illustrations — or rather the illustrator(s).
These are by Henry Leonard Meyer, who is buried in Battersea Rise Cemetery. Meyer was one of the greatest bird illustrators of the nineteenth century. He and his family are responsible for several impressive collections that came out in various editions, including the four-volume Illustrations of British Birds (from 1835), and the seven-volume Coloured Illustrations of British Birds and their Eggs (1842?).
Much of the hand-colouring of the plates, and probably some of the original line work, was done by his wife, Mary Ann (and possibly other members of his family too).
[Does anybody know where exactly he (and his family?) are buried in the cemetery — is there a headstone?]
The Chartist Northern Star rages against the "inclosure" of the commons (including Wandsworth Common): "The poor of this country do not possess so many privileges, that they can afford to be patiently robbed of them... here the rosy-cheeked, chubby little children may freely inhale the breath of Heaven."
Among the few rights which remain, perhaps none are more important, though none more terribly infringed, than that of commonage. Here may the indigent commoners procure the furze and logs for their hearths in Winter; here will they take healthy recreation during the Summer, being licensed to enjoy the exercise of cricket, or of foot-ball, or of a walk without fear of "Man traps and spring guns," large dogs, insolent lodgekeepers, actions of trespass, ejections vi et armis ["by force and arms"], and other such agreeable accompaniments to a walk in the country.
On this ground also they may pasture their cattle — a vast benefit — whether the stock amount to a stately cow, or a well-fed pig or, descending in the grade, to a few chickens; hence they dig the turf and procure wood for fences and necessary repairs; and here the rosy-cheeked, chubby little children may freely inhale the breath of Heaven."
[I would love to know more about Chartist activity in Battersea and Wandsworth ("a spirited village", said the Northern Star). There's also an intriguing reference to a Wandsworth "female Charter Association".]
In September 1891, the South London Press reported an "Old Chartist's Funeral" in Battersea Cemetery. This was Thomas Holliday, who had died at the age of 76.
Daguerrotype by William Edward Kilburn (1818-1891).
During the C19, urban commons such as Stockwell or Kennington were much reduced in size or disappeared altogether. As I've written before, it would be good to know more about Wandsworth Common as a venue for political and other mass meetings.
The deceased was a member of the Battersea branch of the Social Democratic Federation, and a number of his late comrades were present, with their red bows draped with crape. One them carried wreath of flowers surmounted by a red flag, and with an inscription stating that it was sent as a mark of respect by his late comrades...
During the Chartist movement he was an active member, and was present at the great meeting at Kennington Common, afterwards becoming a member of the Magna Charta Association.
After it broke up he joined the Social Democratic Federation, and since his membership he had never once been absent from any of their demonstrations or gatherings. The speaker urged upon his hearers follow in their late comrade's footsteps, and work in the interest of freedom, justice, and humanity. Then could it be truly said, 'O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?'".
Remembering Eddie Fisher ["Sir Edmund Tintacks"], who lived on Loxley Road and was a pupil at Emanuel School.
Eddie was unusually tall and strongly built, so he looked older than his years. In 1915, walking across the Common on his way to school, a woman handed him a white feather. He was a year or two under age but he falsified his date of birth and signed up.
I have posted a fuller account of his short but remarkable life here: Remembering Eddie Fisher.
Eddie Fisher killed at Ancre, on the Somme.
On 16 November 1916, 2nd Lieut. Fisher was killed as his battalion attempted to take German trenches in a local action that became known as the battle of the Ancre. On the 18th November, the battle of the Somme was over. In all, about one million men were dead. Aged only seventeen, Eddie was one of the youngest officers to die in the war.
I have posted a fuller account of his short but remarkable life here: Remembering Eddie Fisher.
South London Press — Saturday 17 November 1866
On Saturday, Abraham Smith (12), whose feet were naked, and who appeared destitute of underclothing, and Edward Cherry (13), both living in the gipsy encampment near the Wandsworth Railway Station, were brought up on remand charged with soliciting alms off foot passengers on Wandsworth-common."
Thursday 20 November 1879 — Death of Conservator James Du Buisson
For many years an active Wandsworth Common campaigner and benefactor, James Du Buisson came from a well-established local Huguenot family. He owned a large house and fields between today's West Side and St Anne's Church. His death, and the sale of his estate, will trigger a transformation of the local area. (Death of a major landowner followed by the subdivision and sale of land to property developers is a pattern replicated many times around the Common — hence the fairly uniform terraced streets.)
Friday 20 November 1914 — it is claimed in the House of Commons that "thousands of men" are unofficially drilling on Wandsworth Common, such as their enthusiasm to fight "in the event of an invasion".
The head teacher of a local private school, Halbrake House on New Road (now Elsynge Road), asks the Common Conservators if they can repair the nearby "Heathfield Ground" cricket pitch — but the project faces "shallow and puerile" objections from local footballers.
The only opposition to the scheme rests with the football devotees, who are fearful that the ground will be monopolized by patrons of the sister sport to the former's detriment. This is surely a most shallow and puerile objection, as we can see no reason whatever why both sports should not continue to be played on the Common."
Saturday 21 November 1874 — John Buckmaster to give a lecture on Cookery at the Assembly Room, Wandsworth.
John Buckmaster's pioneering book on Cookery spawned cookery schools throughout the country, and promoted the teaching of Domestic Science in schools.
At the Appeal Court, Mary Ann White, a homeless woman accused of indecent exposure on the Common, is refused permission to be kept prison while the appeal is being decided.
The Lord Chief Baron Pollock declares "The prisons of the country are not refuges for the destitute. The woman must be discharged."
THE INDECENT EXPOSURE ON WANDSWORTH-COMMON.
COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEAL. — Nov. 21. (Before Lord Chief Baron Pollock, Justices Wightman and Williams, Barons Martin and Channell, and Mr. Justice Keating. ) The Court sat this morning and delivered judgment in the following cases:
THE QUEEN V. ELNOTT AND MARY ANN WHITE —
The prisoners were convicted at the Surrey Sessions for an indecent exposure of their persons on Wandsworth-common. The offence was proved by one witness. The act says it must be a nuisance to the annoyance of diverse persons.
The question raised was whether it was a conviction in accordance with the provisions of the act.
Lord Chief Baron Pollock delivered the judgment of the Court. In this case the judges were divided in opinion, and on such an occurrence it was usual to reargue the case before the whole of the judges. Two of the judges were of one opinion, and the remaining three of a contrary one. The case must therefore be again argued.
He ordered that the woman should be discharged upon her own recognisances to appear when called upon.
Mr. Thompson — The woman was sent to prison at her own request. (Laughter.)
Lord Chief Baron Pollock — How could that be?
Mr. Thompson — She had no home, and she asked to be sent to prison.
Lord Chief Baron Pollock — The prisons of the country are not refuges for the destitute. The woman must be discharged.
In Moscow, the Prince of Wales is entertained by a "company of some forty gipsies. . . who sit as unconcerned before the Royal party [as] if they had been encamped on Wandsworth Common or stealing their way between the carriages before the stand on Derby Day."
This story was widely reported and reproduced in Britain. The explicit connection being made between the fabulous Moscow gypsy dancers and the inhabitants of our Common is such a curious and interesting one that I'm impatient to discuss it in more detail. But I think this will have to wait.
In the meanwhile, this is how the Illustrated London News represented the event. But judging by the passionate, sexually charged verbal accounts, I'm pretty sure the artist-engraver cannot have been there to see it. The reality was clearly much more arresting.
Provisions are to be inserted in the Metropolitan Board of Works Various Powers Bill for next Session transferring to that body all the powers at present exercised the Conservators of Wandsworth Common, provision being also made for winding up the affairs of the Conservators, and discharging them from any further liabilities in respect of that common.
"These are the claws of my goose." Thomas Flavell, a labourer living on Wandsworth Common, recognises his goose, that has been stolen (and probably killed) by James Clarkson. Clarkson declares: "The goose was dead when I found it in the hedge."
[The alleged crime took place on 25 October 1834 but the case was heard on 24 November.]
Theft of a goose
24th November 1834
Verdict — Guilty, with recommendation
Sentence — Imprisonment
JAMES CLARKSON, b. 1813, was indicted for stealing, on the 25th of October, at Wandsworth, 1 goose, value 5s., the goods of Thomas Flavell.
WILLIAM HALL: I am a labourer, and live on Wandsworth-common. On Saturday, the 25th of October, I saw the prisoner in Mr. Rough's hedge, about half-past one o'clock, driving a goose into the ditch — the prisoner followed it into the ditch, and was there about five minutes — he then rose up before me with the goose under his arm, tied in a handkerchief — it was then dead — I followed him — he threw it down — I took it up and gave it to Flavell, who took the prisoner shortly after.
THOMAS FLAVELL: I am a labourer, and live on Wandsworth-common. Hall produced a goose to me, dead — it was worth 5s. — I had turned it out that morning, about seven o'clock — it was my property — I took the prisoner into custody myself — he acknowledged it all to me.
THOMAS BICKNELL: I am inspector of the V division of the police, stationed at Wandsworth. On Saturday, the 25th of October, the prisoner was brought to me, in custody, by Flavell, who produced a goose — it was still warm — I have the claws.
THOMAS FLAVELL re-examined: These are the claws of my goose.
Prisoner's Defence: The goose was dead when I found it in the hedge.
GUILTY. Aged 21. — Recommended to mercy — Confined Three Months.
[Old Bailey Online: Link]
Call in House of the Commons for a great road to be built joining Hampstead and Wandsworth Common.
"The other day a Liberal Member was telling the Minister of Transport how London ought to be planned. He said there ought to be a great road running from Hampstead right across to, probably, Wandsworth Common, 300 feet wide and with trees down the middle, [but] the Minister of Transport rightly reminded him that the difficulty of making new roads has been the difficulty of getting the land.
Thursday 28 November 1878 — Thomas Hardy has recently moved to 1 Arundel Terrace, Trinity Road. He is often troubled at night.
"Woke before it was light. Felt that I had not enough staying power to hold my own in the world."
Calls are heard from some Battersea ratepayers to abolish the local Conservators — who've been managing Wandsworth Common since the 1871 Act — and hand the Common over to the widely-despised Metropolitan Board of Works. They believe this will save them some money.
A furious John Buckmaster writes letters in defence of local democratic control. He ridicules as trivial the amount the Common costs per capita, and reminds people how disgracefully the MBW has always behaved towards the Common.
Over the next couple of years Conservators and other friends of Wandsworth Common resist calls to give the Common away. They recognise that many people have moved into the area who have no memory of how things had been, so they produce this map, based on ones they had used in the run up to 1871 (now, so far as I know, lost).
The map, published c.1889, is both a history lesson and a dire warning of what will inevitably happen if the people of Battersea and Wandsworth cease to be vigilant. It superimposes on top of a then-current map the area that was once the Common. The coloured areas as a whole show the extent of the Common within living memory. The green areas show what remains, the red areas show enclosures, and the yellow areas indicate open land that should be returned to the Common as soon as possible.
[I have written about this map at greater length in The Wandsworth Common Story.]
Earlier in the month The Times (19 November 1886) has reported an escalating conflict between the defenders of the Common (the Conservators and the "Wandsworth Common Protection Society") and the Patriotic Fund (that runs the Royal Victoria Patriotic Asylums for girls and boys).
There are grievances.
The Patriotic Schools have been built with money given as an act of charity by the public to provide for the orphans of soldiers and sailors. Earl Spencer had taken some of this money for the 50+ acres of Common now lost to the people of Wandsworth and Battersea. Two "asylums" had been erected on the land. Yet in 1882 the boys' school has been sold off to fee-charging Emanuel. (In 1882 Emanuel Hospital, then located in Westminster, had gazumped a bid from the local School Board.)
Moreover, twenty acres is now being leased to market-gardeners/building contractors the Neal(e) family, who are "carrying on a trade or business" there and trashing the land in the process. It is a private deal, without public advertisement or competition. Buckmaster senses skulduggery.
In the view of the Conservators, any land superfluous to the RVPA's requirements should be restored to the Common.
Local people are fearful:
"those who had noticed the extent of building operations in London would understand that the letting of land for agricultural purposes was generally the preliminary to its forming a building estate."
[PB: And they weren't wrong, were they? The "Neal" land was bought (not given) back around 1911 — it's now the fine open cricket/rugby/bowls/tennis area near "Neal's Lodge".
But the RVPA for Girls is now privately-owned, and surrounded by houses — the Fitzhugh Estate (built by the LCC in the early 1950s) and the "Windmill Green Estate" — is that what it's called? There has even been talk by WBC of considerable further building in the area.]
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