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Mitcham

Mitcham is a multiethnic town in South London, just south of Streatham, and situated in the London Borough of Merton. It is located 7.5 miles (12 km) south-west of Charing Cross.

Location

Mitcham is located between Croydon and Morden. The River Wandle bounds the town to the southwest. The original village lies in the west, although expansion has pushed the eastern boundary the furthest. Mitcham Common takes up the greater part of the boundary and area to the south. Mitcham has never been well serviced by railway, due to it being equidistant between the historic lines of Waterloo to Southampton and London Bridge to Brighton. An 18th century milestone on Figges Marsh indicates Mitcham to be from Whitehall

History

The name "Mitcham" is Anglo-Saxon in origin and is believed to mean big settlement. Even before the Romans and Saxons were present, there was a Celtic settlement in the area, with evidence of a fort being located in the Pollards Hill area. The discovery of Roman-era graves and a well on the site of the Mitcham gas works evince Roman settlement. The Saxon graveyard, located on the North bank of the Wandle is the largest discovered to date, and many of the finds therein are on display in the British Museum. The area is a possible location for the Battle of Merton, 871, in which King Ethelred of Wessex was either mortally wounded or killed outright. The parish church of St Peter and St Paul dates back to the Saxon era. Although it was mostly rebuilt in 1819–1821, the current building still incorporates the original Saxon tower. Mitcham was listed in the Domesday Book as a small farming community, with 250 people living in two hamlets; Mitcham, an area known today as Upper Mitcham; and Whitford, today known as the Lower Green area.

The area lay within the Anglo-Saxon administrative division of Wallington hundred.

Mitcham appears in Domesday Book of 1086 as Michelham. It was held partly by the Canons of Bayeux; partly by William, son of Ansculf and partly by Osbert. Its domesday assets were: 8 hides and 1 virgate. It had ½ mill worth £1, 3½ ploughs, 56 acres of meadow. It rendered £4 5s 4d.

During her reign Queen Elizabeth I made at least five visits to the area. John Donne and Sir Walter Raleigh also had residences here in this era. It was at this time that Mitcham became gentrified, as due to the abundance of lavender fields Mitcham became renowned for its soothing air. This air also led people to settle in the area during times of plague. When industrialisation occurred, Mitcham quickly grew to become a town, and most of the farms were swallowed up in the expansion. Remnants of this farming history today include: Mitcham Common itself; Arthur's Pond, sited on the corner of Watney's Road and Commonside East, and named for a local farmer; Alfred Mizen School (Now named Garden Primary), named after a local nursery man who was very charitable towards the burgeoning town; and the road New Barnes Avenue, which was named after the farm that stood on that site.

The industrialisation of Mitcham occurred first along the banks of the Wandle, where snuff, copper, flour, iron and dye were all worked. Mitcham, along with nearby Merton Abbey, became the calico cloth printing centres of England by 1750. William Morris opened a factory on the River Wandle at Merton Abbey. The Merton Abbey Mills craft village is now located in the former Liberty silk-printing works, where there is also the restored waterwheel. Peppermint and lavender oils were also distilled in Mitcham, and Mitcham became home to many lavender fields, an association reflected today in Merton Council's Coat of Arms and the badge of the local football team, Tooting & Mitcham United F.C., as well as the name of a local council ward, Lavender Field.

Mitcham's population
19th Century 20th Century
1801 3,466 1901 14,903
1811 4,175 1911 29,606
1821 4,453 1921 35,119
1831 4,387 1931 56,859
1841 4,532 1941¹ war
1851 4,641 1951 67,269
1861 5,078 1961 63,690
1871 6,498 1971 60,608
1881 8,960 1981 57,158
1891 12,127 1991² n/a

  1. no census was held due to war
  2. census data no longer relates to parish boundaries

source: UK census
The activity along the Wandle led to the construction of the Surrey Iron Railway, the world's first public railway in 1803. The collapse of the railway in the 1840s also heralded a change in industry, as horticulture gradually gave way to manufacturing, with paint, varnish, linoleum and firework manufacturers moving into the area. The work provided and migratory patterns eventually resulted in a doubling of the population between the years 1900 and 1910.

Social housing schemes in the 1930s included New Close, aimed at housing people made homeless by a factory explosion in 1933 and Sunshine Way, for housing the poor from inner London. This industry made Mitcham a target for German bombing during World War II. During this time Mitcham also returned to its agricultural roots, with Mitcham Common being farmed to help with the war effort.

From 1929, the electronics company Mullard had a factory on New Road.

Post war, the areas of Eastfields, Phipps Bridge and Pollards Hill were rebuilt to provide cheaper more affordable housing. The largest council housing project in mitcham is Phipps Bridge Estate. Further expansion of the housing estates in Eastfields, Phipps Bridge and Pollards Hill occurred after 1965. In Mitcham Cricket Green, the area lays reasonable, although not definitive, claim to having the world's oldest cricket ground in continual use, and the world's oldest club in Mitcham Cricket Club. The ground is also notable for having a road separate the pavilion from the pitch. Local folklore also claims Mitcham has the oldest fair in England, believing it to have been granted a charter by Queen Elizabeth I, although this claim has not been proven.

Notable buildings

  • The Canons, built in 1680 and now home to Merton Heritage Centre
  • Eagle House, built in 1705.
  • Mitcham Common Windmill, a post mill dating from 1806.
  • Old Mitcham Station, on the Surrey Iron Railway route. Now called Station Court, the building was a former merchant's home and is possibly the oldest station in the world.
  • The Tate Almshouses, built in 1829 to provide for the poor by Mary Tate.
  • The Watermead Fishing Cottages, now maintained by the National Trust.
  • Vestry Hall, the annex of which now houses the Wandle Industrial Museum
  • Mitcham Public Library, built in 1933.
  • Elm Lodge, 1808. This listed Regency house was occupied by Dr. Parrott, a village doctor, in the early 19th century, and for a short time by the artist, Sir William Nicholson. The curved canopy over the entrance door is a typical feature of this period.
  • Mitcham Court. The centre portion, first known as Elm Court, was built in 1840, the wings later. Caesar Czarnikow, a sugar merchant, lived here c. 1865-1886 and presented the village with a new horse-drawn fire engine. Sir Harry Mallaby Deeley, M.P., conveyed the house to the borough in the mid-1930s. The Ionic columned porch and the ironwork on the ground floor windows are notable features.
  • Renshaw's factory, a marzipan factory, founded in 1898 in the City and thus one of the earliest in the country, which came to Mitcham in 1924. It was sited on Locks Lane, where it remained until 1991 when the company moved its operations to Liverpool. The factory was featured in three 1950's British Pathe News shorts. The building has lent its name to the area where it stood, Renshaw Corner.
  • Mitcham Greyhound Stadium, which has long been demolished.
  • Imperial Fields, Tooting & Mitcham United F.C.'s home ground.

Famous People The environmentalist Ray Harrington-Vail lived in Deer Park Gardens. Micham from 1958 to 1981.

Transport and locale

Nearest places

Nearest stations

Recent developments

A new railway station, Mitcham Eastfields railway station in the area of Eastfields, opened on Monday 2 June 2008. This is located at Eastfields Road level crossing, about a mile to the north of Mitcham Junction. The station has filled in a gap in the rail system and serves the centre of Mitcham more directly.

References

External links

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