The History of Wandsworth Common


of Wandsworth Common


Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year !

White Christmas Wandsworth Common c.1908 — snow scenes by Dorrett & Martin (Bellevue Photographers)

(Click on image to view slide show)

— Click here for a low resolution Christmas Magic Lantern Show (smallest — 6Mb — best for phones)

— Click here (or on the image above) for a higher resolution Magic Lantern Show (16Mb)

— Click here for the highest resolution Magic Lantern Show (a whopping 188mb)

"Freezing wet December then ..."

Flanders and Swann,
A Song of the Weather


Chronicles for December 2021

December 2022's stories

— St Mary Magdalene Church "pillaged" . . .

— Whatever happened to "Nottidge Road"? . . .

— When Vampires (and Reindeer) played football on the Common. . . .

— 2-3-5, 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, 4-5-1, 3-5-2 . . .

— Chartism and the death of Mrs Brough . . .

— Albinia Countess Dowager of Buckinghamshire seeks tenant for Burntwood Cottage . . .

— After a Magic Lantern Show, "the Asylum disappeared for ever, its place taken by the migrant from Westminster" . . .

— Wandsworth sculptor's new mechanical hand . . .

— Unemployed to titivate Wandsworth Common . . .

— Battersea Vestry declines to contribute £1000 to increase the area of Wandsworth Common . . .

— "Amputations avoided — the knife superseded" . . .

— Two December duels . . .

— Catastrophe on a number 19 bus . . .

— Two undertakers slug it out in Battersea Cemetery . . .

— "Death of the Battersea Claimant" . . .

— Losing money at a cock fight . . .

— "A real live Woodcock has been discovered on Wandsworth Common" . . .

and more...

Yes, this month's Chronicles are later than ever, but that's partly because I gave a couple of talks on early sports ("Turf Wars — How sport transformed Wandsworth Common"). But also because many of the stories I wanted to write about were getting bushier and bushier, and I couldn't bring myself to hack them back, or uproot even more of them than I did. So there's plenty to read and look at, if you have a mind.

Last month I mentioned my mantra, "Give Chance a Chance". It certainly worked. For example, thanks to Clapham historian Mike Tuffrey's prodigious memory a brief and otherwise entirely obscure story about the death in 1826 of 16-year-old Edward Archer will be hugely enriched. Mike recalled a rather obscure book about the family, which included quite a number of letters from the young Edward to his parents. I am transcribing some of the pages he sent me and hope to show them soon. Thanks, Mike!

Please feel free to respond to any of the stories in this month's Chronicles, or ask questions — I do love a historical challenge.

Philip Boys [aka "HistoryBoys]

8 December 2022

South Western Star — Friday 1 December 1911

St Mary Magdalene Church "pillaged five times in the course of a year"

Postcard of St Mary Magdalene Church, Trinity Road, about 1910.

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Wandsworth Prison is a great reformative agency. It is, therefore, a little puzzling to hear, as we have heard, the Rev. Theodore Wood assert that his church at Wandsworth Common has been pillaged five times in the course of one year, and that the pillagers were discharged prisoners . . .

[BNA: Link.]

The gorgeous Parish Cope. The prison gates are depicted top right. Numerous scenes of the Common are shown elsewhere on the cope.

[With many thanks to photographer Barbara Littlechild, whose mother was one of the Sewing Guild of SMM that created the cope in 1995.]

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South London Journal — Saturday 1 December 1866

New roads planned or proposed ...


Letters from the Metropolitan of Works stated that they had approved of Mr. Maplesden's plan to form a new road (40 feet) along the north-eastern corner of Wandsworth-common, to be called Freemasons-road; and that they had under consideration a proposal of Mr. William Moseley to form a new road (40 feet) to be called Nottidge road, leading out of Garratt-lane, Wandsworth.

"Freemasons Road", part of which became Windmill Road and the rest Spencer Road, is a reference to the Freemasons (now the Roundhouse) pub on Battersea Rise. "Nottidge Road" evolved into Earlsfield Road. ("40 feet", by the way, refers to the statutory minimum distance between house frontages.)

Until late in the nineteenth century no roads connected Garrett Lane and Trinity Road, other than two ancient lanes (Allfarthing and Burntwood) along which animals were herded to and from the Common, and almost a mile separates them.

Stanford's map of 1862 shows fields and market gardens but very few houses. Three ancient lanes are traced in yellow — Garrett, Burntwood, and Allfarthing. At the top, in red, the sites of the former "Clapham Common" and "New Wandsworth" stations. Notice there are no routes on either side of the railway line — no Earlsfield or Magdalen Roads.

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The railway line that cut through at the end of the 1830s, and subsequent housing developments, called for new ways across the fields and Common towards Battersea and central London. Also, in the absence of Earlsfield Station (until 1884) access to the new railway stations at the north of the Common ("Clapham Common" and later "New Wandsworth") was annoyingly slow.

A new main road could be constructed following the route of the railway, but it would still have to cross the Common after Heathfield Road.

The three roads — Earlsfield, Windmill, Spencer Park — did not join up to create a through route until the 1880s [I'm trying to find the exact date], and then only after a vigorous local campaign involving petitions to the Conservators who now controlled Wandsworth Common — who of course were legally bound to resist any further building on the Common.

I'll probably write about the top end another time, but let's start with Nottidge Road.

Here's a map showing the bottom end of Earlsfield Road when it was still a tiny baby:

"Nottidge Road" on a Stanford map of 1877 — the cul-de-sac that will eventually become Earlsfield Road.

Notice it ends abruptly at the edge of a field, and Penwith "Street" (now Road) stops at the Wandle (shown in blue). The southern part of Garratt Lane is shown as an avenue between fields, with mature trees on both sides.

A recent aerial view of the same area. Nottidge Road — renamed Earlsfield Road around 1879 — has been extended and widened, but the northward swerve at the Garrett Road end is till evident.

The red blob indicates Earlsfield Station — there was no station there until 1884. Magdalen Road, just east of the railway line between Wimbledon and Clapham Junction, appeared around 1899.

The blue blob shows the Penwith Road bridge over the Wandle.

Penwith Road is now a through route, extending Earlsfield Road across Garrett Lane (at a very awkward junction, the result of its unexpected origins as a short cul-de-sac) towards Merton Road. After thirty yards it crosses the River Wandle on a bridge with very jolly finials depicting, er, who exactly? Vikings? And if so, why? [Photo: PB]

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So why "Nottidge" Road?

For the first 70 years or so of the nineteenth century the Nottidges (and their descendants) were the largest owners of land between Garrett Lane and Trinity Road west of the railway line.

The pater familias was William Nottidge (1767—1853), for many years a Wandsworth magistrate, he was a major donor to parish and national charities, a stalwart of St Anne's Church and School, and even for a while a lessee of Wandsworth Common.

Here's a superb portrait:

William Nottidge, mezzotint by Thomas Lewis Atkinson, after the painting by Andrew Morton — 1840s or 1850s. [National Portrait Gallery, NPG D39326.]

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William Nottidge and his large family lived at the corner of the Common, in Elm Lodge, Allfarthing Lane. He also built a house next door for his daughter Harriet and her husband, the prodigious Henry Moseley.

(The "William Moseley" mentioned in the planning application above is probably Henry's brother, the architect of the Surrey Lunatic Asylum (c.1838-41). Henry Moseley, incidentally, was John Buckmaster's mentor — and JCB used to coach his children.)

Elm Lodge on the OS 6-inch map of 1868. In 1876 this house and most of the Nottidge lands in the area were bought by Robert Davis, who renamed the house (the road, the new train station, and ultimately the whole area) "Earlsfield". Without him, perhaps they would now all be called "Nottidge"?

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There's much more to say about how "Nottidge" Road was extended towards the Common as Earlsfield Road, and how London Bridge is involved. But these (and other) stories will have to wait for another month.

The Sportsman — Wednesday 2 December 1891

When Vampires (and Reindeer) played football on Wandsworth Common . . .

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VAMPIRES v. MR. F.W. JANSON'S ELEVEN, at Wandsworth Common.

Vampires: M.J.Wells (goal), E. Crotchley and W.J.Livingston (backs), G.S. Francis, P.E.Scott, and R.O. Mills (half-backs), A. Kidd and A. Lesieur (left wing), L.Dashwood (centre) A. Chells and Rogers (right wing) (forwards).

Mr. F.W. Janson's Eleven: P.J.S. Joyce (goal), C.J.M. Fox and G.H. Southey (backs), A.H. Joyce, N. Leete and F.W. Janson (half-backs), J.M. Bennett and F.S. Mayo (right wing), R.S. Ibbs (centre), W. Stevenson and Graham Roberts (left wing) (forwards).

Train 2.14, Victoria to Wandsworth Common. Change at Surrey Tavern.

[BNA: Link.]

F.W. (Francis William) Janson is playing in his own side, as a half-back.

Notice that this is a game of Association Football ("soccer") rather than Rugby Football (until recently, simply described as "Football") — there are eleven rather than fifteen players a side, and each player occupies a specific position. There is a dedicated goalie (a recent innovation), two backs, three half-backs, and five forwards.

This "pyramid" formation is how I recall all soccer was played in the 1950s — there was never any confusion about choosing 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, 4-5-1, 3-5-2, or any other formation, or whether one formation should change to another during the course of play.

Modern football tactics demand changing formations.

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Does anybody know when things changed? (or perhaps more importantly, does anybody care?)

Notice also the helpful provision of a time of a specific train from Victoria to Wandsworth Common station (the 2.14), and the important fact that players were to change in the Surrey Tavern (rather than, say, the Hope, or the Wiseton Road Hall, which were also in use at this date). The Surrey Tavern is now Brinkley's, on the corner of Bellevue and Trinity Road.

And who exactly was "Mr. F.W. Janson"? Well, I haven't spent much time looking, but I know that as a boy he played cricket for Westminster School (and he, like his father and brother) was an insurance underwriter at Lloyd's. He was born in 1862, so he would have been 29 at this time.

According to one source:

"MR. F.W. JANSON, of the Westminster Eleven 1878 and 1879, died in 1903. He was a useful bowler, and developed into a very good batsman. For many years he was prominently identified with the Crystal Palace C.C., for which he played an innings of 252 against Hampstead, in July, 1887, he and the late Mr. C.J.M. Fox, who scored 237 not out, adding 331 runs together after the fall of the second wicket. The total of the Crystal Palace innings was 656 for five wickets. He was born on January the 7th, 1862."

[Wisden Almanack: Obituaries for 1904: Mr. F.W. Janson.]


It's curious but we only have biographies for many men in the late 19th and early 20th centuries thanks to their sporting (particularly their cricketing) prowess in youth. Hopeless duffers on the pitch have simply vanished from history.

How and why Francis Janson supported the more proletarian soccer code, I don't know. Actually, at this time the class-divide had not yet occurred. Many teams played both "codes" — for example our local illustrious Clapham Rovers, who played on and around the Common, was a "hybrid" club — one week rugby, the next soccer.

It appears that Francis Janson died aged 40 in 1902. Had he gone out to fight in the Boer War of 1899-1902, and returned sick or injured?

But what about the Reindeer?

Ah, they were a football team who met at the Freemasons' Arms at the end of the 1880s. Their major club activity (when they weren't kicking and throwing balls) appears to have involved running around Wandsworth Common and the surrounding area several times a week — at which times they called themselves the "Reindeer Harriers".

Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News — Saturday 14 January 1888

This club, which has the patronage of Messrs. Gilliatt and Morgan, MPs, and of other local gentlemen of influence, was founded in 1886 by Mr. E.G. Fenning, the captain, and Mr. S. E. Musk, the honorary secretary and treasurer. The present number of members is 134, which shows very rapid progress indeed.

The Freemasons' Tavern, Wandsworth Common, is the headquarters of the "Reindeers", who have a capital club and concert-room there, and good dressing accommodation...

The ordinary course is from headquarters east, as far as the cemetery, then southwards along the side of the common as far as the railway bridge, westwards till the Surrey Tavern is reached, then sharp to the right along Trinity-road, over the railway, past the Mill, home.

Here's another account of a fairly typical run. This is a year later (14 January 1889), again from the Sporting Life.

Reindeer Harriers 5 miles steeplechase

Notwithstanding the inclement weather prevailing on Sunday the members turned up at the headquarters, the Freemasons Arms, Battersea Rise, for the 5 Miles Steeplechase, where four prices were offered, including one for the first novice.

The start took place from the headquarters as above, up Spencer-road, and on to Wandsworth Common, across the common and the fields for about a mile and a half. The country here was stiff, including some very heavy ploughing and strong furze [?].

Passing on from this and crossing Garrett's-lane and the Wandle, more grass and ploughed fields came in for negotiation.

Running on from here the course lays past the watercress beds and through Somerstown and up to Burntwood Lane, again taking to the fields and over onto Wandsworth Common and into Trinity Road, where there is a straight run of about a mile, the finish being in front of the headquarters.

Intriguingly, the January 1888 article came with images:

Our illustration includes the Headquarters, the well-known Three Island Pond on the east side of Wandsworth Common, and the old Mill in front of the Royal Victoria Patriotic Asylum, which marks the commencement of the straight run home.

BUT very frustratingly, the British Newspaper Archive is missing this page. Grrr. I wonder if there's another source?

Is this perhaps one of the images, possibly redrawn for Sexby's volume?

Runner passing "The Old Mill", from John James Sexby's Municipal Parks Gardens and Open Spaces of London (1898). In the background, Emanuel School indistinct on the other side of the railway line.

Sexby was the London County Council's Chief Officer of Parks. Notice, then, the fences placed around recently planted plane trees — it seems likely that it is intended to show the LCC's enthusiasm for tree planting on the recently-acquired Wandsworth Common.

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It's not impossible that this is a Reindeer. True, there's no obvious visual connection, but there is a definite link with their clubhouse, the Freemasons:

Have a closer look at the shield on his vest:

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It's the Freemasons' symbol: the square and compasses!

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At this point, our runner would have been only a few hundred yards from the Reindeer's pub/clubhouse. What a relief.

Freemasons' Hotel c.1910.

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Illustrated London News — Saturday 4 December 1897

The death at Chivalry Road of Mrs Brough...

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Mrs. Brough, who died last week at her house on Wandsworth Common, had reached the ago of ninety-five years.

To the last her memory was unimpaired. She could recollect the imprisonment of Sir Francis Burdett in the Tower in 1810.

Her own husband, Mr. Barnabas Brough, brewer and colliery-owner, of Pontypool, was the chief witness of the Government in the trial of John Frost, the Chartist. The people in South Wales, taken the teachings of Frost, deserted in consequence the inns supplied with his beer, that he had to abandon his business. These facts were turned to purpose by Mrs. Brough in one of her novels, "Hidden Fire."

The members of her family. which has made its name familiar in theatrical and scientific circles, include a number of great-grandchildren of the venerable lady, who was nearly as old as the century.

At the time of her death, Mrs Brough [nee Whiteside] was living on Chivalry Road, recently built on land that had been part of the Common — see Keith Bailey's essay, cited elsewhere on this page.)

There's no time to go into more detail about Mrs and Mr Brough now, though I hope to eventually. But if you want to follow up the Broughs' story, please do (and let me know what you find).

Morning Post — Friday 10 December 1813

Burntwood Cottage for sale: "A Singularly Romantic Freehold Cottage... embosomed in a plantation of forest trees and shrubs of the choicest kinds... [with] views in every direction singularly luxuriant and picturesque... in the tenure of Albinia Countess Dowager of Buckinghamshire".

I live on Loxley Road, on land that was once attached to this "cottage". But don't be misled by the term. It was probably already pretty big in 1813, and it grew to become one of the largest piles in the area. By the middle of the century it was (I believe) renamed "Burntwood House":

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Burntwood Cottage, Shrubberies, Plantations, and Fifteen Acres of rich Land, Wandsworth. Peremptorily, by Mr. MUNN. at the Auction Mart, on WEDNESDAY, December 22, at Twelve, by direction of the Assignees of Messrs. Clark and Brown.


with suitable attached and detached Offices, called Burntwood Cottage, seated a desirable distance from the carriage road across Wandsworth common, leading from Tooting to Wandsworth, embosomed in a plantation of forest trees and shrubs of the choicest kinds, and fifteen acres of rich Land.

The ground commands views in every direction singularly luxuriant and picturesque, and the Land is esteemed to be of the first quality.

The Residence, Plantations, and Eleven Acres of Land are in the tenure of the Right Hon., Albinia Countess Dowager of Buckinghamshire, on Lease for an unexpired term of 20 years, determinable at the expiration of six and fourteen years of the term, at an annual rent of Two hundred and Eighty-five Pounds; the remaining four acres are in hand.

May be viewed with tickets only, which, with particulars, may be had of Mr. Munn, Walbrook, near the Royal Exchange; particulars also of G. Tahourdin, Esq. Solicitor, King's Beach-walk, Temple; of Messrs. Gaty and Haddon, Solicitors to the Commission, Angel-court, Thogmorton-street; and at the Auction Mart.

So who is Albinia Countess of Dowager of Buckinghamshire", who is selling her lease?

"A SPHERE projecting against a PLANE" (1792) — Albinia, Countess of Buckinghamshire, and William Pitt, by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey. [Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.]

Another image that's worth decoding (though not necessarily now). Albinia Hobart and William Pitt were political enemies — underscored by their very different shapes. Her size, gambling mania, and political affiliation (she kept a salon for the notorious Whig Charles James Fox) made her the subject of countless scurrilous images by Gillray and others. (There are several examples on the National Portrait Gallery website: Albinia, Countess of Buckinghamshire.

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Burntwood Cottage marked on Milne's Land Use map of 1800. Notice how few houses there were on the edges of the Common

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Burntwood Huse (formerly Burntwood Cottage), the prison, and three other quite grand neighbours on an OS map of 1868.

The recently named Trinity Road is shown in pink, and the blue tinted area will shortly be marked out as "College Park" (after the main landowner, Magdalen College) — now generally called the "Toast Rack". (Since when, and originally by whom, I wonder?).

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14 December 1881

The orphaned boys of the Crimean War are evicted from their "patriotic school" on Wandsworth Common, and Emanuel School takes over. A Magic Lantern Show softens the blow.

The Royal Victoria Patriotic Asylum for Girls opened for business in 1859, but the Boys' equivalent not for another thirteen years. Meanwhile, the boys were placed in a disused old house on East Hill, mainly in wooden huts in the grounds.

The location of the Boys' Patriotic School on East Hill in 1871 [marked with a yellow rectangle]. The following year, the "inmates" were moved to a new school built in the grounds of the Royal Victoria Patriotic Asylum for Girls (site indicated with a yellow circle). Incidentally, during its short life it seems never to have been called an "asylum", always the "Patriotic School".

This is now Emanuel School, previously located in Westminster.

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According to my old Latin teacher Bernard Slater, historian of Emanuel School:

During the last two years of its existence the Boys' School had been in a flourishing academic state.

The Report of 1881 had stated that the School was in excellent discipline and had made a 'remarkably good' examination. The copybook writing in the lower standard was the only weak point to which attention was called. In the next year's Report, H.M. Inspector declared 'Both the discipline and the instruction reflect the greatest credit on the teachers'.

But nothing now could save the Asylum.

On 14th December, 1881, the boys were addressed in the dining-hall by the Chairman of the Committee, Earl Nelson, and a parting supper was authorised for them, 'with the amusement of a Magic Lantern'. A few months later... the Asylum had disappeared for ever, its place taken by a migrant from Westminster.

I suppose we might describe this is an early example of the privatisation of a state educational asset.

South Western Star — Friday 14 December 1917

The Bolingbroke Grove-based sculptor Thomas Rudge invents a mechanical hand to help ""every soldier who has had the misfortune to be maimed..."

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Mr. Thomas Rudge, the well-known sculptor, of St. Vincent Studios, Bolingbroke-grove, Wandsworth Common, has invented and perfected a mechanical hand which is believed to be a great improvement on all previous efforts.

During a demonstration at the studios it was proved that the hand could do almost all that can be done by the living limb. It is of great strength, and of such delicacy that it can pick up pins and small coins from the floor. The great merit of the hand are its simplicity and strength. It can be manufactured at a price which renders it easily possible for one to be supplied to every soldier who has had the misfortune to be maimed...

Mr. Rudge is, we believe, the only inventor who has solved the problem of flexing both finger joint.

The thumb and all four fingers can open and shut at the same moment. If desired, the thumb and only the first two fingers work, the other two fingers being in a set position. These fingers and thumbs are detachable. Fingers suitable for special requirements can be readily inserted.

The expansion of the muscles of the chest or shoulder one quarter of an inch opens the fingers and thumb to the extent of 2 1/2in. to 3in. The power of the hand can regulate the grip of the fingers and thumb to his own liking.

Mr. Rudge's invention has been favourably considered by the authorities

[BNA: Link.]

I imagine Thomas Rudge was inspired to action by the nearby 3rd London General Hospital (which took over the Royal Victoria Patriotic Asylum for the duration of the First World War) in which many men had lost limbs and required prostheses.

I have found the texts of Thomas Rudge's patents for mechanical articulated hands, but completely failed to locate any images. In their absence here at least is a photograph of wooden hands, the basic alternative to his device, being carved:

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Thomas Rudge, Sculptor and Carver

There's a lot to be said, though Rudge himself is quite an enigma. I have found very few references to his life, and no portraits.

I can't even locate with any certainty his workshop at "St. Vincent Studios, Bolingbroke-grove, Wandsworth Common", though electoral rolls show it was next to Bolingbroke Mansions. As Keith Bailey has shown, the Battersea Rise end of the road was in flux at this time, so it is possible it was a temporary construction. ("From Common Land to Suburbia: The History of Chivalry Road Battersea 1840-1914" (2021), unpublished essay.)

Thomas Rudge's work can be seen locally (St Mark's Battersea, St Barnabas Clapham), but also in public buildings in central London and elsewhere in England (70-71 New Bond Street, Marlborough House, Imperial Institute, London Opera House, Colchester Municipal Buildings, Claridge's Hotel, the Ocean Accident Offices in Pall Mall). There are also works in several British cathedrals (e.g. Canterbury, Chester, Winchester), and far beyond (Port of Spain Cathedral, Trinidad).

Understandably, much of his work after the First World War is commemorative.

Thomas Rudge's WWI memorial at St Mark's Battersea Rise, installed 1920. The church must have been in sight of his workshop.

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One of his most celebrated pieces is the Finsbury memorial, a rather erotic mash-up of an angel of peace and the goddess of winged victory:

Finsbury war memorial, Spa Green, Islington, by Thomas Rudge, unveiled 1921. See ArtUK and The Victorian Web. Did TR use a local model? If so, who?

Any idea what "S? F.I.I." means?

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Given the size of much of his work — and Thomas Rudge produced a lot — I imagine carts arriving at Bolingbroke Grove with great blocks of stone and leaving with massive finished pieces. Wouldn't that have been a sight.

Norwood News — Friday 15 December 1922

"Unemployed to titivate Wandsworth Common... "



... A further list of works consisting of the renovation of bare areas in parks and open spaces, including Clapham Common and Wandsworth Common, were recommended by the Parks Committee to the L.C.C., on Tuesday, to be carried out for providing additional employment at an estimated cost of £8,005, of which £5,360 would represent the cost of labour, and £2,645 that of materials and other incidental charges.

The scheme was adopted.

South London Press — Saturday 31 December 1892

Battersea Vestry declines "to contribute £1000 towards the purchase of the piece of land adjoining the railway station, Wandsworth Common, for the use the public."

This is sometimes called the Railway Extension Piece — land that had been bought by local resident and Wandsworth Common activist James Anderson Rose to protect it from property developers (as had happened at Chivalry Road). He intended the land to be restored to the Common.

The "Railway Extension Piece" shown on an OS map of 1893. This was land originally part of the Common but acquired by the West End of London and Crystal Palace Railway (WELCR) railway company. Having extracted large amounts of gravel, they used the area as a goods and a coal distribution yard.

After Wandsworth Common station opened on the site in 1869, some of the remaining land was sold to James Anderson Rose, whose house (marked in red) faced the station. I assume his five acres are the two smooth fields to the south.

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Wandsworth Common

The District have refused to contribute towards the purchase of five acres, near the Surrey Tavern, Wandsworth Common, which the London County Council propose to acquire. Battersea Vestry declined to contribute £1000 towards the purchase of the piece of land adjoining the railway station, Wandsworth Common, for the use the public.

But what if the Battersea Vestry had stumped up the £1000?

This modern map covers the same area as the 1893 map, but is extended a short way beyond the eastern edge so that street names can be seen.

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Middlesex Chronicle — 15 December 1877


"A CERTAIN CURE for Ulcers, Scurvy, Boils, Broken Breasts, Bad Legs, Nodes, Blotches on the Skin, Scurf, Scrofula, Scorbutic Eruptions, Poisoned Wounds of all kinds, Ringworm, Itch, Corns, Chilblains, Chapped Hands, Cracked Lips, Cuts, Burns, Whitlows, Piles, Abscesses, Stings, Venomous Bites, &c."

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Two duels...

Hampshire Chronicle — Monday 21 December 1807

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Yesterday morning a duel took place on Wandsworth Common, between a Gentleman in the neighbourhood of High-street, Lambeth, and his confidential Clerk.

After an exchange of three shots, the latter unfortunately fell, and expired almost immediately.

Morning Post — Saturday 31 December 1831


A meeting took place yesterday on Wandsworth Common, between Lieut.-Colonel Sir Robert Gill, Lieutenant of the King's Yeomen Guard, and D. Finlaison, Esq., in consequence of a very serious dispute which occurred between those Gentlemen at one of the Clubs.

The parties were accompanied to the ground by Sir J. Wedderburn, Bart., and Lieutenant Walsh, Royal Artillery; and after receiving Mr. Finlaison's fire without effect, ?? Robert Gill fired in the air, when an explanation took place satisfactory to the seconds, and the parties after becoming reconciled left the field.

South Western Star — Friday 27 December 1935

"Catastrophe in a Bus — Disastrous Explosion at Wandsworth Common... "

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Disastrous Explosion at Wandsworth Common.

Our special correspondent writes:

Last Friday evening a disastrous explosion occurred in a 19 bus which was bound to the "Wheatsheaf," at the corner of Tooting and Balham High-road [now called Tooting Bec]. Fortunately, no-one was injured, but the conductor's was out of action and two passengers were in consequence carried beyond the distance for which they had paid.

The circumstances of the disaster are these:

A lady boarded the bus at Arding and Hobbs's corner, Clapham Junction. She carried a bunch of mistletoe in one hand and her shopping bag in the other. It was noticed with satisfaction that there were a good many berries on the mistletoe, berries being scarce this year, a circumstance which soma poople maintain denotes a hard winter.

It was also noticed that the lady was careful not at any moment to hold the mistletoe over her head. She was accompanied by a little girl five or six years of age. The child carried a long and highly-inflated balloon, such as those seen at most Christmas toy bazaars. She seemed both fond and proud of her treasure, and from time to time she gently caressed it, and talked to it softly, as little girls talk to their dolls.

The bus being crowded, the balloon was for a time a source of embarrassment, until a passenger made way for it and the child. The mother was a lady of foreign birth. She was extraordinarily polite for a passenger in a London bus, Tooting bound.

She said, "Thank you," unnecessarily as was thought.

When the full-up signal had been given (three sharp pulls at the bellrope), and the bus was ploughing its way across the wilds of Wandsworth Common, everybody was startled and alarmed by a loud bang. Women gripped their shopping baskets. Men placed their hands over their pockets which contained their wallets.

The conductor tugged at the bellrope to signal the driver to go forward with all speed, there having been a rumour that raiders and hold-up men were lurking on the common.

To the conductor's dismay the rope "came off in his hand," as ono timorous penny fare expressed it. It had been blown or otherwise forcibly, removed from the bell lever. A sob from the little girl who belonged to the bell lever. A son from the little girl who belonged to the lady with the mistletoe caused all to look in her direction.

To the surprise of everybody she no longer was toying with the captive balloon. It had burst and nothing of it remained but a shapeless bit of rubber dangling from a string. The cause of the disaster could not be discovered, but one of the older lady passengers gave it as her opinion that the heat of the bus had something to do with it.

South London Press — Saturday 29 December 1877

Two undertakers slug it out in Battersea Cemetery...

(Click on image to enlarge)


John Bratley, an undertaker, of York-road, Battersea, and Henry William Webb, jun, undertaker's man, of Bridge-road West, Battersea, were summoned by the Battersea Burial Board for violent and indecent behaviour in a burial ground.

Mr. W. Rogers appeared for the Burial Board, and Mr. J. Haynes for the defendant Webb.

Thomas Akerman superintendent of Battersea Cemetery, deposed that on the 13th inst. he saw the defendants in Battersea Cemetery. They were wrestling togther, and he thought they were playing, but he then saw Webb knock Bratley down. Some ladies said it was Bratley's fault. The defendants had just lowered a coffin into a grave.

Bratley refused to leave the cemetery until a constable was sent for. Bratley was intoxicated, but Webb was sober.

John Bratley was sworn, and deposed that Webb had thrown his umbrella in the mud the day before. On the 13th witness said to him, "When you want to practise jokes, you don't practise them on me."

Webb then said, "You ______, take that," and hit witness in the eye, knocking him down. Witness was sober.

Henry William Webb was sworn, and deposed on the day in question he and Bratley were employed by Mr. Smith. Mr. Bratley came late, and was drunk. When on the hearse, Bratley said he would break witness's face.

When in the cemetery, after lowering the coffin, Bratley caught hold of witness by the throat, and gave him a black eye. He then came at witness again, and threatened to murder him. Witness then struck him with the strap they had used to carry the coffin with, and knocked him down. The day before witness had thrown Bratley's umbrella to him, and he had failed to catch it.

Henry Smith and Mrs. Farmelow corroborated Webb's account of the occurrence. Mr. Bridge said it was a most unseemly and horrible affair to be brawling and fighting at a funeral, and he considered both defendants equally to blame. He fined them £3 each and costs, or one month's imprisonment.

Hampshire Advertiser — 30 December 1871

Was the recently deceased "Henry Clay", a "tall, gaunt-looking, rather shabbily attired" railway worker who had lived on Battersea Rise, really Lord Fitzroy Lennox — universally believed to have drowned in the north Atlantic when the President went down thirty years earlier?

Henry Clay certainly insisted he was, and demanded to be buried as such.

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The fact may interest many of our readers that on Sunday week died at Battersea-rise, Wandsworth, a person who some few months since was expected to startle the world with a revelation more mystifying and of wider interest than...

Sorry. This is such a big story I'm going to have to leave it at least until next month — but it's a good 'un!

Derby Mercury — Thursday 30 December 1736

Having lost their money at a cock fight, three Wandsworth men turn to highway robbery . . .

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Yesterday one Fielder, a Butcher, Goswell, a Baker, and Rowler, a Gardener, all of Wandsworth, were committed to the New Jail in Southwark, by Justice Pettywood, of Putney, for robbing the Rev. Dr. Baker of St. Michael's Corn-hill, and Minister of Barnes in Surrey, of thirty Guineas and a Gold Watch, in the Manner following:

They tied their Horses to a Gate and robbed as Foot-pads; but upon their Return the Horses had broke loose, which gave the Doctor's Man an Opportunity of alarming the Country People, who immediately pursued and easily took them before they could recover their Horses.

In their Flight they flung away the thirty Guineas and the Gold Watch; but being perceived the Booty was regained by the Pursuers.

It is said they had been at a Cock-Match and lost their Money, which put them upon this desperate Way of recruiting.

I wonder what sentences they received? Did it make a difference that they were on foot rather than horseback — hence "footpads" not "highwaymen"? Could you avoid execution that way?

The Sportsman — Saturday 31 December 1887

"A real live Woodcock has been discovered on Wandsworth Common... "

Woodcock, from Henry Leonard Meyer (1797—1865), Illustrations of British Birds, 1848.

Dutch-born illustrator Henry Meyer is buried in Battersea Cemetery. I wonder if he has a headstone?

(Click on image to enlarge)


A real live woodcock has been discovered on Wandsworth Common. On learning this item of information we felt that the time might be approaching when Londoners would be enabled to have good sport without journeying to the far north or the green breasts of the Yorkshire Wolds.

With the harmless but necessary woodcock flapping its wing on Wandsworth Common doubtless we shall soon hear of grouse at Walham Green, the red deer roaming amidst the wilds of Balham *, or a good day's partridge shooting being obtained at the Green which lies alongside Fulham bearing the clerical name of Parsons.

* Deer were hunted across Wandsworth Common on a number of occasions, including March 1826, April 1845, and as late as March 1878.


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